Win Against Perpignan Shows Planning Is ParamountPosted on: 11 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Last week London Irish beat Perpignan 20-9. In his first diary entry, Nick tells us how the team prepared.
To beat Perpignan in the Heineken Cup quarter-final (Europe’s premier club competition) is an experience I’ll cherish and remember fondly but it just shows that planning is paramount if you want to be successful in any sport.
Our preparations began early in the week but by Thursday things were turned up a notch. After a short, sharp weights session we began a thorough focus meeting.
Focus meetings are the norm. We watch clips of our opponents, check out their strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how and where we’re going to win the rugby match. With the club’s biggest game in its history just around the corner we wanted to be fully aware of the game plan Perpignan were coming with.
Another crucial element in the lead up to a rugby game is the diet and conditioning. We eat after every training session. Thursday was no different as the club laid on a very healthy spread which includes salmon, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, salads and cold cut meets.
Before our second session of the day we had an hour off but most of us chose to spend that hour learning more about Perpignan in the analysis room. We’ve four computers which hold all the clips from every game we’ve played and also on our opposition, which is great when you need to do some extra work.
We finished training around 3.30pm and after eating again at the club I was home. Without too many plans, it was just a case of heading down to Tesco’s and putting together my evening meal and settling down to watch a DVD.
We were in early on Friday morning but being the day before match-day we only spent 40 minutes out on the paddock, revising our set plays and making final preparations – we weren’t going to leave anything to chance for this one.
With most of Friday off it was a case of trying to relax and make sure you were feeling fresh for the game. I played some pool around a friend's house, but I was in bed at 10.30pm for a good night’s sleep.
As the game was at home at the Madjeski Stadium in Reading, I woke about 8.30am, made some porridge for myself before going back to bed to snooze until I was up and ready to switch on for the day. I was going through the motions in my head, what my job was, what was expected of me and making sure I knew all the calls. I made some chicken and pasta before we met at the club for 12.30pm.
In the two-and-a-half hours before kick-off, we put some music into the changing rooms. We’ve a system which allows you to plug your Ipod in and we generally take it in turns to play the tunes you want. Although, this week Bob Casey tried to put some Lighthouse Family on, we made sure it came off quick. Topsy Ojo is generally the best DJ at the club so he usually gets his way when it comes to the music.
As for the game itself, well I’d be lying if I said it didn’t go very well from our point of view. We were underdogs and our game plan worked a treat. It was never going to easy and it was never going to be pretty but we ground it out, the hard work paid off and the final score (20-9) was richly deserved – a job well done.
It meant a lot to the fans and the idea of playing a semi-final at Twickenham began to sink in. We had knocked out one of the favourites and we were in the final four.
The coaching staff gave us our weekly schedules after the game. They gave us Sunday and Monday off as a reward. A day off is a rarity but two in a row- that’s unheard of.
To celebrate we headed up to O’Neill’s in Richmond. Most of the lads were there and we really enjoyed ourselves, knocking back a few drinks to celebrate. Sunday’s hangover just served to remind me of what a good day it was, but we still watched another quarter-final on tv to check out who we’re up against in the semi - Toulouse.
Back to business on Tuesday as we were back at the club. A double session which included some video analysis of the match as well as full on contact and fitness work.
After training and matches we always go for the ice baths to help recovery from the bangs and bruises, but no matter how many times you jump in, it always feels like a bad idea and it genuinely feels like your toes are about to fall off.
But now our attentions have turned to Newcastle on Sunday. We’ll be travelling up as we usually do by train on the Saturday. The last time we flew up and in the bad weather the plane was forced to land in Scotland. We then had to get a bus back down and nearly missed kick off!
We’ve another day off today (Thursday) but the most important thing now is to get Perpignan out of the system and look forward to the challenge of Newcastle.
London Irish play Newcastle Falcons on Sunday April 13th at 3pm.
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