Tuesday 20 February 2018

Warriors will be a huge challenge as run of 'cup final games' begins

Player Diary: Jack O’Donoghue

Jean Kleyn, pictured here scoring a try against Ospreys, will be hoping to build on his impressive performance at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Jean Kleyn, pictured here scoring a try against Ospreys, will be hoping to build on his impressive performance at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

A third win of the season is a great return for the squad, but personally I left Liberty Stadium feeling like I didn't contribute as much as I could have to the win.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in those sentiments, but as a unit we played pretty well in the first half but didn't take all of our chances, which meant we had to grind it out a bit in the second half to hold on to the lead.

Those kind of wins leave you with a real mixed bag of feelings.

On occasion I found myself just slipping out of the game. I went through a few phases and wasn't involved in carries or tackles and the tendency then is to go and chase the game, which is the last thing you should do.

When you chase the play you make mistakes, and damage the unit when you slip out of the system. A headless chicken is no good to anyone on the rugby field.

Your natural instinct tells you to fly out of the line and make a big hit if you have been idle for a minute, but as soon as you do that the ball is flipped back inside and someone is going through the hole you left in the defensive line. When you see that you've caused a system error in the review on the Monday morning, it's not a great feeling.

Feelings It's important that you ride those feelings, sit tight, do your job and execute when you have to. I'm sure it's the same for every rugby player, and that calmness can be hard to nail sometimes, but I have to keep having those chats with myself.

Sometimes you have to realise that you will have quiet spells in a game. I went from having two very busy games to a game that was quieter because of the playing conditions. That's the way it is I suppose, so I'll try and keep a level head the next time.

One thing for sure it won't be too quiet tonight when we take on Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun. I love playing on the 4G surface, it is always a really lively match. The game is pretty open, which I love and you get a chance to get involved with the backline and play off Tyler a bit.

You get enough of playing in the muck and rain in rugby, so a chance to play on a good surface is always welcomed.

While I know I was being a bit hard on myself after my game last weekend, one guy who deserved all the plaudits is Jean Kleyn.

You can see JK is hungry for action. He has been out of the game with injuries and he has come back and he is absolutely destroying people, hitting rucks, pulling mauls left and right and scoring tries to put the backs to shame.

It is noticeable that some of the guys who have recently arrived at the province have really stepped up to the mark.

Chris Farrell too since he arrived has got in on the act, and together they are really putting their best foot forward and are already setting the example for everyone else.

In the coming weeks our focus has to be on keeping our winning run going. We are heading into these 'cup final games' now: Glasgow, Cardiff and Leinster all in a row. I think we'll see the best team possible out for those games so everyone will be desperate to take whatever chance comes their way again tonight.

It helps too that we feel we are playing a good brand of rugby, a good exciting game that suits our strengths. But we'll really be tested tonight. In Glasgow, it's going to be an even bigger test than the Ospreys - Glasgow got a bonus-point win against Ospreys and now we're going over there. 

Over recent seasons there has been an intense rivalry between ourselves and Glasgow and it won't take much to get either team up for the game. We'll both be firing on all cylinders and I'm actually really looking forward to getting another opportunity to put my hand up and really show my physicality again.

Their internationals are back now, they have a lethal backline, the quality of players they have right across their squad is huge. You are nearly guaranteed to face a team full of internationals every time you play them.

They have a big Scottish pack and they will look to dominate us up front. I think with the way we have been going, our scrum and our maul has gone well, so I think we are ready for the battle in the trenches. We'll have to keep them pinned back and make them play from deep.

The two-conference competition brings another element to the league this year, but right now we haven't paid too much attention to it. You have to play everyone in your conference at home and away and the rest of the teams home or away.

You still have to play everyone, so we just want to win all the games and that will make you top anyway. Maybe that will change after Christmas when the race for positions heats up, but right now the aim is to take it as one 14-team league and accumulate as many wins as possible. 

I don't think meetings between the two teams needs any more spice added anyway. We played each other four times last season and we won them all. They will certainly come at us all guns blazing in search of revenge for that run of results.

I don't think anyone could have accused Glasgow Warriors of being soft in the past, but they have definitely retained that hard edge with their new coach Dave Rennie, and if anything they seem to have stepped their pack intensity up a notch or two, so it is going to be an interesting battle. 

From the time of Gregor Townsend we always seemed to have lively games. The rivalry is huge between the teams, so I feel we'll be ready for this one. As a pack you always love to assert your dominance so that's what we will go out to try and do.

Irish Independent

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