Monday 10 December 2018

We will need to be at our best when champions come to town

Player Diary

Robin Copeland is tackled by Edinburgh’s Jaco van der Walt last weekend in Murrayfield. Photo: Sportsfile
Robin Copeland is tackled by Edinburgh’s Jaco van der Walt last weekend in Murrayfield. Photo: Sportsfile

Billy Holland

We were really poor last weekend. I don't know why it happened but we just didn't perform. We don't have many games left in the season to be performing like that and with Scarlets to face in Thomond Park tomorrow, we need an immediate remedy.

After a long season it's hard to believe we only have four games left in the Guinness PRO14 and at least one game left in Europe so it really is the business end of the season. With that in mind, it's important that we park our disappointment and find our form again ahead of this key few weeks.

Without doubt Edinburgh are an excellent side at this point in time. We knew it going into the game, but maybe we didn't play well enough to beat them. In saying that, we had five or six good opportunities to score a try and we took none of them. Take one of them and it's a very different game. That's the tight margins that we operate on and if you're a few per cent short you miss out.

Phenomenal Last season we saw how good Scarlets can be and they took most of the chances that came their way. Again they're playing phenomenal rugby, but I think they might be even better than when they beat us in the final at the Aviva Stadium last year.

Some of the things they are doing at defensive breakdowns sets them apart, they really slow down ball and force turnovers. They might not be scoring all the crazy tries they did last season but they are so dangerous from turnovers and we have to be on song tomorrow to beat them.

James Davies was always a real threat for them, but in the last few months Tadhg Beirne has been playing very well for the Scarlets. He'll be a team-mate of mine in six months but this weekend he's in the other corner. We will be well aware of the many threats posed by them all over the park this weekend.

As I mentioned above, it is vital that we take our chances. While our maul defence was good in Edinburgh - we stopped their two or three attempts - our maul attack was poor. It was one of the first times this season that it didn't click. It has been a real strength all season but it wasn't up to scratch. When strengths like that stop functioning you'll be on the back foot automatically and it's an area that we have worked on and are hopeful that we've rectified this week.

As a squad, we received a few setbacks on the injury front too, but I'm sure all the lads will be back before too long. We are at the stage of the season where any couple of months out is a season-ending injury. 

Duncan got a very nasty knock last Monday in training. You play so many physical games and come through okay, but for it to happen in a freak training accident is tough. I called up to him on Sunday for a cup of tea, and soup is as much as he can manage so far. He's an extremely resilient fella though, and we know he'll be back flying it, better than ever as early as he can.

Tyler has had lay-offs before but you really feel for him. He was outstanding against Glasgow having not played since October. First game back he was excellent, so for him personally it must be really frustrating. For us as a squad he is a massive loss. Yes, we're lucky we are strong in that position, but he is a class player.

Keith's injury was a real blow from the Ireland game at the weekend, but it was some performance from the team - they were immense. It's hard to explain the achievement... Winning a Grand Slam in Twickenham against an England team fighting for their lives.

I think Ireland completely and utterly destroyed them. They had done what they needed to do in the competition and I hadn't been blown away by them, but last weekend they were on another planet altogether. England didn't have a hope in hell of winning that game.

You'd be delighted for all the squad, but in particular for Keith. He had missed out on some of the other Six Nations Championships over the years.

To come off the pitch with a Triple Crown, Six Nations and a Grand Slam, I'm delighted for him.

He's one of the form players in Europe right now and we're going to miss him. The way he's playing right now the Lions would miss him if they were playing.

We have a lot of backs in the sick bay at the moment, but that's why we build strength and depth in a squad. Lads will step up and come through in spades in the next few weeks, I have no doubt.

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