LET THE GAMES BEGIN…
A lot has happened since my last piece. The Christmas period wasn’t ideal for us losing out to Worcester, Wasps and Harlequins, games in which we felt like we definitely could have picked up more than the 2 points we achieved. Then after New Year the Aviva Premiership was put on hold and a month of cup rugby was upon us.
This came at a very good time for us in all honesty. It was where we, as a team felt like we could experiment and build on a style of rugby that we may not have showed up to this point. We won’t sugar coat the situation, the Premiership is our only focus with regards to the season. Yes the Amlin and LV cups are great experience and another chance for players to prove themselves and for us to build as a team, but in regards to results, what happens in the 22 league games is all that really matters.
Despite this, personally I’ve had a very special 2 weeks versus Cavialeri and Stade Francais. I was made captain and it was a huge honour and one that I will never forget. To captain a side at any level, is something that I have always really enjoyed and to captain the side not only in front of our home crowd but away in France was a very surreal moment and something that I’m very proud of. Leading the side out against a team with such history as Stade and with multiple internationals, including their own captain Pascale Pape will be a memory I never forget.
It is now however where the real games begin and time for us as a squad to stand up and be counted. The month of February is make or break for us and we are certainly going to be motivated for the next 4 games.
We start with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, which no matter what generation you’re from, or teams you’ve previously played for, is an unbelievable place to play. The most successful British side at their own ground in front of a packed crowd, it doesn’t get much better than that. These are the games that require very little self-motivation. They will have a lot of key players away on international duty, however, the 23 players that will line up for the game are probably an international standard themselves, so if we think we are in for an easier game then we are massively mistaken.
Then comes, what many may argue is the game that could determine relegation. Sale at home!!!! It is mad to think that with seven games left after that match that there is talk of it being make or break for both teams, but the way the season has panned out so far it is understandable. A team who haven’t showed their true potential this season, but in recent weeks have put together a number of results, and it will be a huge challenge and hopefully one we can come out on top in.
The last 2 weeks of the season see trips to Exeter, who will be looking for revenge after our last minute victory, which was our first ever win in the Premiership, followed by Saracens at their brand new stadium, Allianz Park. They say there are no easy games nowadays and I think this month is proof of that. Every team on their day has the ability to cause an upset and we know that we are going to have to be at the peak of our game to even challenge them.
There is also a small competition called The Six Nations going on at the moment, and already we have had some outstanding games and an incredible result. The Calcutta Cup was, as an Englishman, a great result with England showing that they will be real contenders. The Irish showed their class with their 20 minutes of pure dominance versus Wales, despite a late comeback that almost saw the Welsh take the points. Then came the mighty Italians…. I am all about look good, feel good, play good and they certainly did that!! They were inspired that afternoon and I really hope that unlike last season it isn’t going to be a one off and they are now going to really show what they can do.
After the first weekend I still think with the locations of fixtures that Ireland will come out winners, but England are continuing to grow and who knows, maybe a Grand Slam could be on the cards….
Photos courtesy of Getty images