Press Pass with Mike Blair
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press ahead of Saturday's EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 clash against Bath at DAM Health Stadium (16 April, kick-off 8pm).
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On his message to the squad ahead Saturday’s Bath match
“It’s the start of the knockouts and a slightly different approach to the game - you’ve got one chance and if you don’t perform you don’t get to the next level, you don’t give yourself that opportunity at the next stage. We’ve talked about that already.
“I love the buzz around things. We were pleased with lots of elements from the game against Pau, there was a really good buzz in training today, and we just want to find that consistency.
“We talked about the key factors for us in winning games and we’re really focusing on them, because when we reach knockout stages it becomes more and more about us putting the best version of ourselves on the pitch.”
On playing with home advantage
“There’s certainly a lot of excitement when we can get the crowd on their feet and get them behind us. We scored a couple of cracking tries and we were relentless, certainly in the first 45 minutes.
“We allowed things to drop off a little bit, which invariably will happen, but it gives that little reminder that if we’re not absolutely on it, it will let the opposition back into games. We were pleased with lots of the stuff, but we also know there were areas that we need to keep on top of as well.”
On the team’s Round of 16 opponents: Bath
“They had lots of injuries at the start of the season and potentially struggled a bit with confidence - they weren’t quite getting the results.
“But a lot of their players are coming back in now. They’ve got some quality internationals and young up-and-coming players coming through as well as experienced club players. We believe they’re a real threat. It’s great to have a Premiership team coming up to the DAM Health.”
On the motivation of a home Challenge Cup QF
“I think it is, yeah. We love playing in front of our home crowd and creating that energy - feeding off the crowd and the crowd feeding off that as well. It’s really important that we focus on what we do well, and that will give us opportunities later in the competition.”
On not writing Bath off
“A hundred per cent. This will be one of our toughest games. They’ve got quality across the pitch. They’ve got two 10s in Bailey and Cipriani who can pull something out of nothing, they’ve got pace on the wings, they’ve got power up front - we obviously know Josh Bayliss well - he’s scored a couple of worldies recently.
“Sam Underhill as well. They’ve got quality across the pitch. There’s plenty for us to focus our minds on.
"Past performance is a small indicator, but we’ve got to keep pushing ourselves to improve. We need to be on top of our game, and if we’re not, we’re going to give whatever opposition the chance of getting in the door.
“We’re focusing on ourselves and what makes ourselves successful, and then take it from there.”
On the challenge of playing knockout rugby
“Consistency of performance, keeping your game at high intensity the whole time - both sides of the ball, thinking clearly under pressure and winning the moments. Winning the scarps on the ground and being engaged for each element of the game, doing your roles right within that. So there are lots of different elements.
“There are things that we’ve done well and I believe that consistency is crucial.”