The hooker spoke to the media this week to preview tomorrow’s Round 12 Guinness PRO14 trip to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport).
Can you give us your thoughts on Glasgow on Friday and the challenge they’ll bring?
Going over there, we know they play on an artificial pitch which allows for a faster-paced game. That’s what they like to do; they pride themselves on fast ball and working teams on the edge. We’ve looked at that; we’ve had five weeks off and this has been the carrot at the end of it that we’ve been looking forward to. We’re expecting a fast game and we’ll hopefully be able to implement our game plan and not let them dictate play. In the last few games we played [Glasgow] over there, they started well and we’ve been having to play catch-up, so we’ll be targeting a fast start ourselves to try and set us up for the rest of the game.
Are artificial pitches still a novelty for playing on now that more clubs play on these surfaces?
They’re completely different from what we play on, but there are more teams now who have them. We have facilities to train on artificial pitches. There’s stuff around footing when it comes to scrums and mauls that are a little different from a grass pitch but I don’t think we have a problem with them. I think they give you good footing and a chance to play running rugby even when the weather isn’t great. It was probably more of an issue a few years ago when there were maybe a couple in the league and we never trained on them. I don’t think it’s a problem anymore. The boys are well used to them now!
Is the team confident in delivering bonus points from the remaining Guinness PRO14 games to get a place in the final?
Yeah, we’re confident. We aren’t looking too far past this week as you can imagine. We know what has to happen with the way the tournament is set up this year, only the leader of each Conference goes through. We know the task in front of us and I fully expect the team not to shy away from that. We’ll try and relish it; it gives us a target to aim for. Hopefully, we’re coming into better weather as the weeks go on to allow for more flowing rugby and lead to trying to get bonus points. We can’t be looking at game four and five though. We’ll just be focusing on Glasgow and preparing for that.
How has the squad been dealing with the five-week break?
It’s odd to have this long a break in-season. It was good to freshen up but five weeks is a long time without a game. It can get boring; we want to play rugby but we tried to keep it as fresh as we could. It was a good chance to work on things we think we want to put in place in games going forward. We would rather be playing games but it was a good five weeks; we put in a lot of good, hard work which will hopefully hold us in good stead.
What was it like training against Ireland at the High Performance Centre in Dublin a few weeks ago?
It was good. That was the closest thing we’ve had to a match against a team that don’t know what we’re doing. We’ve spent five weeks training against each other but we’re all running the same plays and know our patterns and how we defend and attack. That was pretty nice to freshen it up, go somewhere different in a different environment and go up against lads in the Irish team. They were looking to prove a point and there were plenty of people on our side looking to prove a point as well. That was good to keep it fresh for the big break that we had.
How pleasing is it to have signed a contract extension in these uncertain times?
It’s great to have a bit of security for the next two years in a world where plenty of other people don’t know what’s happening week-to-week let alone year-to-year, so I’m really happy to have got that signed. It’s one less thing to worry about and one less thing in your head. I’ve harped on about trying to have fun when we’re playing rugby; we’re really lucky we get to do this. There’s no grassroots rugby happening here so we know how fortunate we are to still be able to do this. It’s nice to know my future for the next couple of years. I’m back to concentrating on the week-to-week stuff now!