Press Pass with Mike Blair

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 Quarter-Final against Wasps at DAM Health Stadium (7 May, kick-off 12.30pm).

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On losing our unbeaten home record and looking ahead to Wasps

“We’re obviously really disappointed to lose that unbeaten record at home. It more of a stat than anything else, but it also shows that we are very difficult to beat at home, and that stands going into the Wasps game.

“I thought Wasps played some outstanding rugby against London Irish in the first 60 minutes on Sunday and then London Irish, obviously came back into the game. But it shows the quality of team that is going to come up here, and we expect them to come fully loaded and ready to go.

“So, it is a great opportunity for us to get back on the horse. I thought we played some really good stuff at the weekend without scoring the points – but we all know that scoring the points is the most important bit, so we’ve got some work to do in and around there.”

On Wasps attacking style

“Hopefully open when we’ve got the ball and not so open when they’ve got it. They’ve got lots of quality individuals and play a heads-up brand of rugby.

“We like an open game. I believe it suits the players we’ve got. But as we saw at the weekend, when the rain comes down you’ve got to adapt what you are doing a little bit – so I think it will be a great challenge for us.

“They are a team who can really turn it on so we’ll have to stop that being the case.”

On injuries in the squad

“Stuart McInally and Dave Cherry both took injuries at the weekend and we’re waiting to hear back.

“They are going to have some scans and see the extent of the issues with those injuries. They’ll probably struggle a bit for this weekend, but we don’t have those results back.

“I think Stuart McInally is very unlikely. Dave Cherry, you never know until you’ve had that scan how much of it is bruising and how much of it is something more permanent, so we’ll just have to wait and see with him.

“We don’t know with James Lang. It was a knee-on-knee injury, so it just depends how long it takes to heal. He’ll be in with the physio this afternoon and we should get a better indication of where he’s at after that.”

On Adam McBurney stepping up

“He definitely can. Adam’s been absolutely brilliant for us, on field and off field. He really drives standard and he’s incredibly competitive.

“He’ll be pissed off when you don’t select him, then half an hour later he’ll be doing everything he can to help prepare the team and make them better.

“He’s a really good man and we have had proper conversations about involving him in the 23 already so it’s really great that he should be able to pick up an opportunity this week.”

On dealing with injuries

“It’s an interesting one. I’m looking at the group of unavailable players we’ve got now and I’m thinking, ‘jeez, is this unprecedented? What other teams are dealing with this?’

“We’ve got it pretty tough at the moment but I think other teams have had similar issues. I remember Wasps at the start of the season had huge numbers out. They’re doing a lot better now but you can see the impact it had.

“Wasps won two out of nine games at the start of the season but when they’ve had their players back available I think they’re on nine [wins] from 15, plus a draw.

“So you can see the impact it has. It is frustrating to have so many guys out - we’ve probably got an international XV unavailable to us but it’s not something we can do too much about and as I’ve said previously it’s given guys opportunities to step up.

“Ben Muncaster off the bench, I thought he was fantastic again. Connor Boyle has been excellent. So it does give players opportunities.

“Gus Williams has been in with us, Harrison Courtney has been in with us, both Super6 players, so it has opened the door for guys to get game-time and show what they can do and, longer term, that’s going to be a good situation for us.”


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