We’ve rounded up all the key points from, Head Coach, Allen Clarke’s press conference at Llandarcy on Tuesday, looking ahead of this Friday’s clash against Zebre, at the Liberty Stadium, K.O. 7:35.
Here’s what Clarkie had to say about…
International Players Returning:
- I think all the players coming back in from such a high with Wales will have a bit of infectious rub-off on everybody else. The boys playing for Wales were looking forward to coming home, and obviously had a fantastic run and a fantastic series of wins. But it was good to see their energy on Monday morning, equally we addressed the feeling of disappointment within the squad on Monday, with a view of moving onto this week and the forthcoming games.
- Obviously the international boys didn’t train yesterday, but some of them are starting to be involved this week.
- Hugely disappointed with the scoreline first and foremost, and also with aspects of the performance and, I suppose, the inability to convert in the first 8-10 minutes when we had a couple of opportunities. We didn’t get the ball back until the 33rd minute, with control, we had four or five opportunities but we turned the ball over, primarily from the lineouts.
- You could see from the boy’s reactions afterwards in the changing room, that they cared deeply and they were particularly gutted by the performance and the scoreline.
- I think in situations like that as a coach, it’s easy to vent your anger but all I spoke about was that it clearly hurts, it should hurt, we have two days to process what that hurt is about, and we turn up on Monday to do what we do, and do it well so that it doesn’t happen again.
- In many respects there are a number of things we could have done better – there’s no doubting that – but you have also got to take your hat off to the depth that Leinster have as a team, and I felt that their big-name players really stood up and led for them. That’s not to deflect from the point that I expected us to be right in the fight when I looked at the two teams on paper. That wasn’t the case, so its how we move forward with it. Instead of throwing everyone under the bus, we reflect on maybe why it didn’t go our way, and why we weren’t mentally and accurately right in terms of our attack, our defence, our set-piece and whatever it was individually because some individuals played well.
- They are dangerous. You look at how they play the game; they aren’t afraid to keep the ball. You look at some of the names on their team sheet, all with international quality.
- They are a side that, if you underestimate them, it’s at your own peril. We’ve got to be clean about our business, we’ve got to be motivated and excited to put a performance in on Friday night.
- There will be an expectation to put things right, but that will add to the excitement of Friday night.
Next Few Weeks:
- Obviously, we’ve got Stade at home and then Stade away, and then we come back from France to play Scarlets at home, into Dragons and Cardiff Blues. So all things being equal, and if we’ve got a healthy squad, those selections have been pre-planned. The boys are pretty confident with where they’ll be, and some will be given a little bit of time off as well, so that they will be freshly charged.
- It’s going to be an exciting month, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’d encourage our supporters to come out and get behind the boys.
- Obviously, you want an outcome where you are winning, but its foolhardy just to go out and set your stall out to win the game. You’ve got to build every minute within the game and get an 80-minute performance to get that outcome, and in so doing you set yourself up for the following week, and Stade at home is also very exciting.
- We want consistency and that’s probably what we didn’t deliver on Friday night.
Team Changes Over the Next Few Weeks:
- We’ll look at our block of games leading up to when a number of the squad will go back for Six Nations duty, and we’ll rotate accordingly. We’ll manage their minutes on the field, so they are feeling fresh for the games that we’re really going after.
- We’ll move players around within this system. You look at Keelan Giles and Hanno Dirksen who have been going really well on the wings for us, consistently over the last number of weeks. So there’s also an opportunity to rest some of those boys as well with the likes of Luke Morgan coming back in, who maybe didn’t have as many starts with Wales. However, having said that, when you are in the Welsh camp, you are still committed to the cause, so that has a bearing mentally and physically.
Nicky Smith and Adam Beard:
- It's absolutely fantastic the way that Nicky Smith and Adam Beard stood up and the way they progressed. It’s the best I’ve seen Nicky scrum, I thought his discipline in there was excellent. Certainly when he was involved against Australia and South Africa, the Welsh scrum was on top.
- Adam Beard grew throughout this series. He took leadership of the lineout, which assists Alun-Wyn Jones who is taking leadership of the team. Equally, I was pleased with his physicality around the field, and you could see his confidence.
- Nicky has really bought in. He’s very coachable, he recognises the importance of being connected to the other seven players within the scrum and not going off on his own mission, and maybe that’s where he was in the past. He’s worked a lot on his basics in terms of his profile, his constant tension, getting his angles right, getting his bang right. I think he’s a really good example of someone who has come to the fore, and you can see that. His scrum has improved, but equally, his play around the field. You can see what he’s like as a defensive player, and he got to carry the ball on a few occasions, and he did that with confidence.
- I’ve spoken before about part of our responsibility as a coaching team here, and as a club, is that we want people to play for Wales, to be thirsty and hungry to play for Wales, at all levels right Age-Grade right through to Senior levels, and as a result of that, we drive performance from within.
- That’s something to be proud of for everyone associated with the Ospreys. Obviously, that has an impact on what is available to you at the weekend, but you hope over time that you’re building that base, the habits, the mentality, and the winning-culture that those guys are bringing back in with them, are rubbing off on our younger players as well.
- Dan Lydiate’s injury isn’t as bad as initially feared. He won’t be available this week, but he’s close to returning.
- We actually came through the game on Friday with a clean bill of health, which probably tells you something about where we were physically, or where we weren’t.
- All in all, we are reasonably healthy at the moment. We’ve got a few boys returning from the long-term injury player group. We’ve got Big G, Gheorghe Gajion, who is up and running with us, which is adding to our strength in depth.