Press Pass with Mike Blair

Press Pass with Mike Blair

Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press in the build-up to Saturday's URC Round 3 match-up with DHL Stormers at DAM Health Stadium.

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Reflecting on defeat to Benetton

“We had a team meeting and we were frustrated. We talked about shooting ourselves in the foot. But there was a load of positive stuff too so it was a positive meeting about the good things that we’ve been doing.

"But it was also a reflection that we can’t give the opposition easy ins to the game through our basic errors, whether that’s discipline or skill-based stuff.

"They were six wins from seven, playing at home. They’d obviously won the first game in the new league and were playing with the home crowd behind them. If we had won that game that would have gone down as a really good away victory.

"So we can’t then turn around and say it was a shocking loss. After 77 minutes we kicked the ball out on the full, and 79 minutes 30 second we’ve got a lineout on their 22 to win the game. So you look back and of course you’re frustrated with how it turned out.

"But, as I said to the guys, it’s not as if these are difficult things to fix. We can turn these around pretty quickly. So hold on the positives that we’ve shown in the past couple of weeks and tighten up a couple of things and we’re in a good place.”


On facing South African sides back-to-back

“They’re used to the type of game over here now with two games under their belts. Stormers had an excellent first 37 minutes or so against Munster and not many team go to Munster and are 15 points up near half-time.

"Munster got back into it through their driving game but Stormers when they hit their straps are a difficult team to stop.

“Yeah, it’s a better time to be playing them now with their internationals missing! But we’ve still got a couple of guys to get back as well who aren’t quite fit and available; Emiliano, Mesu, Nick Haining, Ben Toolis and Glen Young. So we’re missing some too.

“Sometimes, though, when you play a team without internationals in it, it’s actually harder as the other guys are hungrier to show what they can do. So we’re expecting another tough game.”

On Vellacott's early season form

“I think Scotland have strong scrum-halves. George and Ali probably have a fair bit in the bank, but the way that Ben is going, if he can continue to show this consistency, he’ll start pushing those two along with Jamie Dobie and Scott Steele.

“There's a lot to his game. He kicked well on Saturday. We’ve talked about the half-backs having to be better at certain times in terms of organising things, but generally he’s been spot-on and very astute in tactics meetings. All the nines are on the call, they’re seeing what I am seeing.

“It is very easy as a coach to pause the video and say ‘you should have done this’ or ‘you should have done that’. But that’s not going to get them doing whatever it is instinctively.

"They definitely have the intellect to be doing that, so it is just time in the saddle and allowing them opportunities to develop that.”


On opportunities for Charlie Shiel

“Charlie was excellent when he came on for his 20 minutes against Falcons. Really impressive. It will have been frustrating because we played Ben for 40 minutes and Henry for 20 minutes, and then Charlie, so it’s not ideal.

“It is difficult. I am trying to give guys opportunities, but we don’t have Super6 we can fall back on because we need a week between playing Super6 and then coming back with us.

"We need the numbers at training so we can play 15 against 15, and we need that to be at a standard which will stretch our ability. This is a block of five games – we want to give guys opportunities – but we don’t want to experiment.

“We want to be in a good position after these five games – to have learned lots but won games as well. So, there is a real balance between how we integrate guys.

"Charlie was potentially going to get 20 minutes off the bench but Ben played excellently and I didn’t feel the time was right to make a change. It is not easy, this game.”


On Blair Kinghorn's return to fitness

“He’s doing okay. It’s a funny one, the type of injury he’s got with his quad is suck it and see – day by day.

"So, it is about how quickly he reacts. He did a bit of running on Friday. He was out there today as well. It is just waiting to see how he goes. So, our guess is as good as mine at the moment.”


On other players match fitness

"We’ve got a couple of guys who are trotting around today – Magnus and Nick Haining – so we should find out more in the next couple of days."

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