Thursday 14 December 2017

Winning this medal would mean everything after all our hard work

Player Diary

Simon Zebo, pictured here getting away from Dan Evans of Ospreys, will be hoping to produce another big performance in the final. Photo: Sportsfile
Simon Zebo, pictured here getting away from Dan Evans of Ospreys, will be hoping to produce another big performance in the final. Photo: Sportsfile

Tommy O’Donnell

It's a great feeling to be training this week with such a big prize up for grabs. It's different to recent years, just knowing that this is the last week of the season and we have something huge to play for has us buzzing.

In other years the run-in might be flat - last season we were fighting to get into the Champions Cup - but to be playing and preparing for the Grand Final is massive. We've all been counting down the sessions and by tomorrow night we could have some silverware to celebrate.

That excitement has gotten us through the week and it has flown since Ospreys.

That game was very good from a team point of view. We did what we needed to do to get through to the final. It could have been very easy to slip up having watched Leinster the night before, but we just knew what we had to do.

Ospreys went out and attacked well for the first 20 minutes or so, but we pulled together a good team performance and rounded it off with some really good tries and got away with the win.

Confident

You'd always be confident of winning any game when you have home advantage, but seeing Scarlets against Leinster certainly reminded us that playing at Thomond Park doesn't guarantee you anything. That semi-final record was always going to go at some stage, but thankfully it wasn't us.

Ospreys might not have been on the best run of form coming into the game but with the class they have in their team they were capable of pulling off a result. We were well sharpened and well aware that they pose a threat. We were in no way complacent going into that game.

Looking back at the game in our review, it was a good defensive effort from us but it will be a different challenge for us tomorrow. Scarlets have been scoring tries at will of late. It was definitely encouraging to hold Ospreys to just three points and it is something we need to carry on into this game.

The backs ran in some brilliant tries. Andrew Conway and Zeebs got unbelievable scores, and Frankie Saili's opportunistic try shows he is on form too. It is fantastic to be able to put in the hard graft up front and then you see your backs reaping the benefits.

That's something that we have worked hard on this year and it is a trait that we are very keen to continue. Everything we do is a team effort. We have a style of play and it has gotten us to the final of the Guinness Pro12 and into a Champions Cup semi-final, so we'll be sticking to our guns for this one too.

It's important that we don't deviate from the plan against such a quality side. I have been involved in two games against them this season and they have had varying success.

We did well over at Parc y Scarlets earlier in the season, but at Thomond Park we lost the game because of six sloppy minutes after half-time. Everything was going well for us at the break, but they did a job on us. At the other end of it you also got to see their defensive capabilities when they held us out, even though we had the chances. 

They are a quality team and I had another look at them against Leinster. They were not one bit afraid of Leinster's record at the RDS.

They played great rugby, got their tries and even with 14 men they were playing such a good brand of rugby and defending so well that they could hold out for a whole half without a man. That takes huge effort and massive skill, so we know we are in for a real challenge.

They are very talented at the breakdown, and sometimes it looks as if they have more flankers than everyone else. That just shows how hard they commit to that zone, they want to impact the game there and they certainly did that against Leinster.

They have guys that are capable of stealing the ball, but also the ability to steal it at vital moments, which tackles away momentum from teams, as they did at the RDS.

James Davies has been playing incredible rugby and has been racking up the turnovers and penalties, and it just goes to show how good Wales are in that area of the pitch, that they can afford to leave him out. But if he keeps up his current form he won't be long breaking down the door.

We'd be foolish not to prepare for losing the ball a few times against them at ruck-time, so it is vital that we regroup well as a unit when that happens.

Our scramble defence has been good all season and it paid dividends against Ospreys, but it will have to go up another level again with the quality of attacking team we are playing.

Thoughts of Lions and Ireland tours have been parked for now - we'll worry about that when we are called into camp - but it's fantastic to get the Ireland call-up from my point of view.

To get another run-out for Ireland in such a unique tour will be special. Three weeks taking in the USA and then Japan will be incredible. We'll get the chance to play some good rugby, but we'll also get to see a bit of Japan and experience its culture. I'm delighted to be touring.

But for now, it would mean everything to me at the moment to win this game. It would be the first piece of silverware that I would lay huge value on. I have medals from the 2009 and 2011 Pro12 wins, but for the first one I was only in the sub-academy and the second one I only started five games. 

To be on the pitch and the podium if we win it would mean everything. It has been a great season and a lot of hard work has gone into it, so to see it rewarded would be special.

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