Clarkie discusses the state of play in the Guinness PRO14 ahead of Friday's Liberty Stadium clash with Munster.
We’ve rounded up all of, Head Coach, Allen Clarke’s key points from the press conference at Llandarcy on Tuesday in advance of the Guinness PRO14 Round 16 clash against Munster at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night. (K.O.7:35pm).
Here’s what he had to say about…
- The group of players we had last week is what we’ve got to select from. We’re thin on the ground, that’s well documented. We’ve just got to keep getting better.
- We created enough in the game and that’s heartening, but what’s got to be important is that we take those opportunities. We’re a team that needs to take those opportunities, particularly in a low scoring game.
- Based on our review, both from players and coaches, it was clear that we created as many opportunities as the opposition. We’ve got to take those opportunities, that final pass, that holding the ball under pressure, that little bit of decision making with close line opportunities at maul time, we stem some of the opposition mauls, but equally they stemmed our mauls. On another day, you score one, you score a second. It would be nice to get a team chasing the game for a change, rather than us being in that arm wrestle.
- Against a team of their quality, you have to take those opportunities, and we are fully aware of that.
Releases from Wales Squad:
- I wouldn’t expect anyone to be released from the squad. We’re probably one of the few teams in the knockout positions, maybe the only team in the knockout position, who didn’t have anyone released last week. It’s the quality of the players that we have, they are front line players for Wales. That means the group that we do have are focused on playing well for the Ospreys and delivering a performance on Friday night.
- If you look at the facts from the weekend: four Irish sides won, both Scottish sides won and none of the Welsh teams won. It’s tough on all the regions.
Development of the Squad:
- Our responsibility now is to build the quality underneath and that’s where we are as a squad. We are very much in the development phase albeit we’re determined to win at weekends, but our responsibility is to prepare well for Friday night but to be realistic about the outcome of those games.
- It’s easy, as a coach to show your frustrations on the back of Friday night against Ulster. But when you look at some of the players that Ulster had had released, and how that galvanises a squad and gives it a lift, you’ve got to stay grounded and constant in terms of building the quality of the squad from within because of the financial restraints.
- No one wants to accept defeat. A s a head coach you’re many things, but ultimately you’re responsible for the performances on the field, and also for the development of the club long term. If it was only for me throughout the season, I’d say this for my co-coaches as well, they’ve been fantastic in that regard, and for the board, if it was only about us winning game on game, you’d roll out your best side every week. But, we come to these stages in the season and some of the boys wouldn’t have any experience whatsoever.
- We’ve got good experience within the side, but in certain positions we have limited experience and when you’re playing a 15-man sport, building those connections within the team gives you that fluidity and understanding. That’s something that is definitely developing, albeit we were at the wrong side of the scoreboard on Friday night. We created as many opportunities as the opposition, the only difference was that they had more experienced players. In fact, the player that was making 100 caps scored a try and deservedly was MOM. Those three or four players, sprinkling of players, can be a massive difference at this point of the season.
- I think it’s a combination of the development of what we have and the growth of our indigenous programmes. Young Welsh men like Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Will Griffiths and Harri Morgan; we’ve others coming through the ranks that we’ve blooded this season.
- Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler is really important to us during this phase. He’s 19 years of age and he’s standing up and playing against the likes of Stuart McCloskey on Friday night. He’s also played against Pau away in Europe, so he’s building understanding and confidence of the game. We need more like him, and we also need a rigorous recruitment process. It’s something that we are addressing internally and along with Project Reset, there’s a resetting of all sports throughout Europe at this stage in the season, but in particular there’s a resetting of our own squad in Swansea.
Position of play:
- I think it’s about the next game and working towards being in the knock-out positions, starting with third, and never getting too far beyond that or we’ll lose sight of what’s important, and Friday night is really important for us.
- We’ve made it difficult for ourselves, there’s no doubt about that on the back of Friday night. It was a missed opportunity in many regards, this presents us with another opportunity, but this time the stakes are higher in terms of outcome.
Expectations of Munster:
- They are one of the best teams in Europe and have great strength in depth. They’re obviously at the top of our conference and are riding high. We haven’t won against them for a number of years, so in many regards the expectation is lowered externally, but there’s been a good drive this week. We’ve just come off the field and it’s been a really good training day today, but ultimately we’ve got to be in the right emotional state come Friday night.
- Your preparation during the week gives you the confidence going into Friday night. We know what is going to be required on Friday night; we know the task ahead of us against a side that is brimming with confidence and experience. Having said that, we have a really good bunch of men, we’ve been consistent in our approach this week. The atmosphere within camp has been strong and the focus amongst the players has been excellent.
Qualification for Champions Cup:
- We’re desperate to get back into the Champions Cup; we know the challenges ahead of us in terms of achieving that. For us it’s a statement of the progress we’ve made and for the group of players and the boys who aren’t here, there’s a real motivation to achieve that.
- What is probably more important is that we are developing so that there is a consistency on an annual basis, it’s not just a consistency on a one-off season. For now, the focus is on Friday night. On the back of Friday night, with the other head-to-heads going on within our conference over the next couple of weeks, that’s going to let us know and other teams know where they are on the pecking-order and the shake out when the internationals return. It will be fantastic for us to get an uplift in terms of a victory so that when the internationals do return with four games to play, we can strike for a qualification spot for the knock-outs.
- In some respects, my preference would be that it doesn’t go down to the wire on the final day, but given our current situation I’d take that and I’d back us in that environment. We’ve got work to do to get to that point.
- We’ll certainly know over the next couple of days as to what our budget will be; we’ve had some indications. But I believe, certainly by the end of the month we’ll be in a position to offer contracts and confirm recruitments.
- I believe that we’ll definitely have a stronger squad next season, it excites me, both in terms of recruitment and in the development and progression of the young players within our ranks. You harness that along with the returning internationals from the World Cup, that is going to be particularly tough here. You want to recruit quality, internationalesque players, but in doing that you recognise that they are likely to be away for 10/11 games next season. Therefore, you’ve got to bolster that either internally from the current squad or you’ve got to recruit players who are either on their way up, who aren’t quite international yet, or have been through international rugby and are quality, formed players.