Catch Up with Clarkie: Leinster Away

Read what Clarkie had to say before travelling to Leinster on Friday.

Ahead of this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Leinster in Dublin, Head Coach Allen Clarke spoke to the press…

Here’s what Clarkie had to say:

“We lost three second rows last week. Bradley [Davies] being called up to the Welsh squad, which is great, then Kingy [James King] went down injured in the game and young Will Griff [Will Griffiths] went down injured in the week. It’s a real stretch of the squad and now we’re in a position where we have to look to reinforce the squad so there’s enough substance for us to compete.”

“I tip my hat to the boys for how they dealt with Friday night. The resolve they showed at the end of the game was impressive when it would’ve been quite easy for heads to drop and concede more points.”

Injuries and Recruitment 

“Obviously, second row is one of those positions we’re looking to reinforce because we’re certainly thin on the ground there. With ten players at the world cup and the recent injuries the squad is definitely stretched. Shaun Venter’s arrival has given everyone a timely boost. Hopefully we’ll have another to announce in the coming days.”

“We were already exploring 2nd row options before James [King] got injured. After Bradley’s elevation up to the Rugby World Cup it left us in a position where we only had one senior specialist in Lloyd Ashley.”

“Dan Lydiate moved up to 2nd row for 60 minutes at the weekend. He’s the skipper of the group and in such circumstances that’s what you want from your captain, a man who is willing to put the team ahead of his own personal preference. He gave it everything and could hardly walk at the end of the game. A back row going up to the second row is a big ask but that’s the sort of man you’ll stand tall beside, trust and give everything for.”

Youngsters and Number 10

“Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler has had a tremendous summer with us, due to Cory’s injury he now has a great opportunity to forge a partnership with Scott Williams. There’s also Tom and Kieran Williams who will push and fight for a shot at the jersey.

“Alongside that we’re still looking for a 10. Obviously we’ve Pricey, Cai and Hooky [James Hook], but we do need some more depth in a pivotal position to take us through the season. We’ve been looking for some time to be honest, but we’re looking for the right quality. Whoever comes in needs to provide genuine quality, if not, I’d rather back the boys we have already.

“Cai loved making his debut on Friday. Kingspan is a special ground to play at and it was a memorable occasion. Obviously, we would have preferred it to be on the back of the win or picking up some points at least. We recognise, with all young players coming through that there will be special moments and other times tough encounters. Those experiences will make them better in the long run.

"It’s not an easy fix, we’re very clear on where we are but we still have belief in the season campaign as opposed to just being judged on one off games.”

On Ulster Leading to Leinster

“They have quality throughout their squad even with the boys away at the world cup. They have a programme that has been the heartbeat of Irish rugby for a number of years and is the envy of most European teams. Their record shows how good a side they are and I’m sure everybody outside our group doesn’t give us a chance against them on Friday.

“Again, if you step back from the game against Ulster, taking into account the number of boys we were missing and compounding that with the number of injuries we picked up, I thought the resolve of our group was excellent. You can build on that, if you don’t have that character within the group, you don’t have a chance.

“We’ve got fight, we’ve got character and we trust that we’ll be in a good position on Friday night to be the best version of ourselves.”