Press Pass: Blair on Ospreys and playing for the fans
Get then latest from Head Coach Mike Blair ahead of Saturday's BKT URC clash against Ospreys at DAM Health Stadium (15 April, kick-off 7.35pm) with this week's Press Pass.
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On the desire to win the club’s final home game of the season
“We’ve not played at home since the Leinster game, but we’ve got a lot of guys playing in this game on Saturday who won’t have been involved then.
“Selection has been really interesting this week, we’re trying to tick a number of boxes. We’re trying to give guys opportunities who might be playing their last game for the club, trying to give guys opportunities who are playing for world cup places and give opportunities to guys who have been consistent in what they have given to the club.
“A home game is a great one to have, against the Ospreys they are a team who are full of internationals, probably had a similar-ish season to us in terms of doing well in the Heineken Champions Cup but they haven’t had the consistency in the URC stuff as well.
“They’ve got stuff to play for with the Welsh Shield and we’ve got something to play for with Fan Appreciation Night and as I said before, putting a team performance onto the pitch to help those individuals.”
On the senior players leaving the club and next season’s club
“It will be a similar number of players in the squad. I’m not having as much to do with the recruitment stuff at the moment.
“It’s a funny market for players and actually holding back a little bit and keeping your powder dry – it’s a buyer’s market, it favours clubs at the moment.
“What with Worcester and Wasps there are plenty of players available so actually just waiting to see what happens, it’s obviously a World Cup year as well and guys tied in with that. I imagine there’s still some stuff to come but that’s where the situation is at the moment.”
On Steve Diamond
“He’s been watching, behind the scenes and seeing how things flow from a coaching point of view, from a players point of view and he’s getting a good understanding of where we’re at.
“He’s addressed the group two or three times but generally he’s been there to have an opinion. I ask him his opinion on things, he’ll come out with a couple of questions like, ‘why are you doing that?’ or, ‘would you do this?’ so he becomes part of the discussion.”
On the possibility of it being his ‘final home game’
“I’m trying to stay emotionally detached from it. I’m trying to prepare the guys as best we can and go from there.
“I’ve not thought too much about that side of things: it’s not about me. All along I’ve talked about this team being the players’ team: it’s for them to drive, we’re here to facilitate things.
“But I’m sure a few weeks down the line when the season is over I’ll be able to reflect on things more.”
On the mood following the Leicester match
“We had the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off. We talked about being in the fight, we talked about doing a lot of things we talked about doing but we also talked about us losing patience before they did in terms of our kicking game and our strategy.
“The game was won and lost around a couple of small incidents – the kind of once in a blue moon ones, freak incidences but unfortunately they have happened a couple of times with us which gave Leicester the lead and they were very competent at holding onto that.
“We’ve talked about where we get our growth from within that and we’ve married that into this game against Ospreys about it being a really good opportunity for us in front of a home crowd to thanks them for their support, but also as I said before, put a performance on for our players.”
On improvements for next season
“I think it’s interesting because statistically we’re similar if not better than we were last season. But stats don’t always tell the true story. We’ve played some brilliant rugby this season, but we’ve just lacked consistency with it.
“The Lions game is a really good example of it. We scored, I think it was, to go 19-12 up with 12 minutes to go or so.
“We had the wind behind and we were all over the Lions, but we coughed the ball up, they kicked it up the pitch, they scored a try and got a penalty and suddenly it was game over.
“I guess my message would be, “don’t get bored of doing things well”, stick with what we do well and stay on top of teams and put them under pressure.
“Whereas, probably a couple times we’ve maybe got a little bit bored of doing the basics or a little bit bored of keeping the pressure on and tried something a little bit different rather than sticking to what we do really well and putting teams under pressure.”
On the FOSROC Super Series Sprint and younger players stepping up
“Yes, we’re definitely looking at younger players right now. So, the first game there with Heriot’s we had a bit of a blend of a team because we’ve still had two games left to go for our selection, we need guys to be up to speed.
“There’s a little bit of rust in us if you haven’t played for a while and we had a few guys who needed some game time.
“We had some senior guys, I think we had seven senior guys involved last week. We’ll have some senior guys involved this week.
“But it’s trying to get that balance of the young players coming through who haven’t had a huge amount of rugby either. So, getting them up to speed, giving them meaningful, competitive games. It’ll be important in the next couple of weeks.”