Press Pass: Benetton next up
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press in the build-up to Saturday's URC Round 2 match-up with Benetton in Treviso.
Press Pass is brought to you by Glen Moray, the club's Official Single Malt Whisky Partner. Never rushed or forced, always in balance, steady and with care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out more about Glen Moray today.
On facing a 'different' Benetton challenge this weekend
“Very much so. We talked about it in the meeting. We’re obviously playing away from home. They had five different starters against Stormers than they had against us.
"And I’ve spoken before about warm-up games - you’re using them for a purpose, you’re using them to get game-time or to try something or to give guys opportunities. But this is competitive now.
“We saw them put in a solid performance against a good Stormers team, they’ve got a lot of momentum behind them, they’ve won six of their last seven games and they’re a quality outfit.
"They’ve changed from being that team near the bottom of the league that you look to beat into a team that I think is going to be challenging at the top of the league this year.”
On Benetton's turnaround and rich vein of form
“Confidence and belief have been key for them. Two things that are really important to Italian rugby, I think. When they believe that they can win and challenge and they feel that they’ve got the ability to do it then it becomes a completely different team to play against.
“You do get stuck in a rut with losing games but it just takes a couple of games to turn it around and you get the confidence and they’ve really built on that this season.”
On confidence and persuading the players to believe in themselves
“There’s a bit of that. There was a lot of good stuff on Saturday but as I think I said afterwards there are also lots of things we need to review and work on and the sign of a good team is how quickly you take those lessons on.
"So that’s generally going to be around what our halfbacks are doing but also decision-making around breakdowns and our speed to make good calls at lineouts and pressure situations.
“We’ve just got to keep working on those things and hopefully the sign of a good team is that we’ll pick up those lessons quickly.”
On Benetton's home advantage
“It’ll be interesting. You won’t have so many people travelling, I don’t think. We certainly loved having the supporters here but I think there will be a feeling of just enjoying playing in front of supporters, whether they’re home supporters or away supporters.
"These guys are entertainers. You’re doing it because you love the game but you’re doing it to entertain and that’s what rugby is. So if you’re doing it in front of people, whether they are supporting you or not, then I think that’s part of the experience and part of the buzz you get out of the game.”
On the new Benetton coaching team maintaining momentum
“I don’t think anyone new has come in, it’s more that Marco [Bortolami] will have been part of the renaissance coming through last season. He’s just going to build on the buzz around the club, and from what I’ve seen they’ll be able to do it with Marco in charge.”
On players returning to fitness
“We do have a relatively sizeable injury list, and it’s difficult at the moment bringing players in to make sure we’ve got the right sort of numbers in training. I don’t think there’s anyone extra coming back.
“We're pretty much unscathed from Saturday. The final physio assessments will be today, then we’ll know what’s going on.”
On Damien Hoyland and Magnus Bradbury
“Damien is probably unlikely to be fit this week. Magnus should be in the next couple of weeks, as with Nick Haining.”
On altering tactics and selection when playing away from home
“In terms of team selection you want some cohesion of having units working together. Often that changes because of injury and what have you, but we also want to create a competitive environment where people feel they’re going to get an opportunity if they do well.
"There will be some changes to reflect that, so that as a squad we know that if you perform in training and in games then you will get an opportunity.”