Press Pass with Mike Blair

Press Pass with Mike Blair

Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with media in the build-up to Saturday's URC Round 6 clash with Dragons at Rodney Parade.

On returning Scotland players

"We’ve given guys a couple of days off at the start. We’re seeing how our guys shape up.

"A lot of them have played a fair few minutes with the national squad over the past four or five weeks so it is important for them from a physical and mental point of view to get their heads out of things.

"We’re just assessing things at the moment and seeing which players we have available. We’ve given a few guys Monday and Tuesday off and then we’ll see where they’re at after that."

On having a five-week international break

"A lot of the guys were involved in the game [against Newcastle] with the Southern Knights. Thirteen of our players, guys who were a little short on game time, played in that game and it was a really valuable exercise for us.

"I loved the way the guys engaged in the game down there, the Doddie Weir Cup game. The way we engaged with the Souther Knights players and the way the crowd got behind us was excellent.

"It was a really proud moment for me and the club, the way we engaged and the effort we put into that game.

"The other players trained on the Wednesday to Friday and then everyone had the following week off. Some guys got away and then we had a bit of a hit-out last Tuesday so the time has actually gone by pretty quickly.

"We’ve been able to focus on our skill work, nailing down handling and principles in defence. It has been a good opportunity for that.

"At the start we were wondering what we would do for four or five weeks but it is amazing how it flies by. It has been important for us."

On the new caps and whether they've got a 'changed mindset'

"I think so. I think there is a greater understanding of what they can do and where they can get to.

"Speaking to some of the individuals they have talked about the learnings they got and what they can bring back and how they can lead and make a bigger influence on what we’re trying to do.

"From my point of view that’s excellent. The shoulders are out a little bit more than usual. It’s great because they’ve got to prove to the guys who stay here why they are involved in the national team.

"The guys who trained with us will be equally wanting to say: ‘don’t get too comfortable because we’re coming after you’. It’s a nice balance to have."

On current injuries in the squad

“We’re all okay at the moment. We’ve got a few on the physio’s table getting themselves checked out.

“Mark Bennett is good. He had a slight reaction in training right at the start of the national camp, so there was a decision on whether to manage him or get him looked at. We got him looked at and he’s better for that.

“Ben Toolis is on his way. It was a fairly complicated injury that he had in his knee. He’s had a tough time of it with some struggles but we believe now he’s on the right path. It’s probably going to be another couple of months.

“We’ll have a few players coming back, Glen Young should be back shortly.

"It’s funny as at times you think the squad is pretty big and will be difficult to manage and get everyone games, and then then next thing you know you get a couple of injuries in the same position and you think, “oh we need a bigger squad”. So you can’t cover all bases but we’re good at the moment.”

On the signing of Emiliano Boffelli

“I love Argentinians. Some have previously played at the club like Francesco Leonelli. They’re just great people, always with smiles on their faces.

"It’s testing my Spanish as Emiliano’s English needs a little bit of work. I’ve tried throwing out a few Spanish phrases – I’ve ordered a few beers off him! I can’t remember what else.

"But it’s great to have him here. There’s disappointment that we didn’t have him due to the Rugby Championship but when you look at the cold, hard facts, it’s just five games that he’s missed and there’s plenty left in the season.

"He’ll be here during the Six Nations and for the rest of the season. He’s a quality international. I know Argentina struggled a bit in that last game but he’s performed pretty consistently throughout and played well for Racing during his time there too.

"He was someone who was signed prior to me getting here but who I’m pleased to have.”

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