People assume that Wales will improve from last week but I’m not so sure
Maybe they took their eye off the ball but bad performances are never good preparation
Sam Warburton, seen here in action as a replacement against Italy, will captain Wales from the start against Ireland on Saturday. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images.
Ever since the games ended last weekend, I’ve heard lots of people come up with a theory that I find confusing. Basically, the thinking goes that it was good for Wales not to play well against Italy because it means they have something to work on and improve on by the time they meet Ireland in the Aviva this Saturday.
And some people have said it about Ireland as well, saying that we played Scotland with one eye on the Wales game and that we’ll definitely be better this time around.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, Ireland didn’t play badly at all against Scotland. I actually thought it was a decent performance. They took a while to get going but eventually they put them away and won by 22 points. That, to me, was a better performance than Wales’s and better preparation for the second round of matches.
I don’t get why people think that Wales will be happy to have played badly last weekend. It doesn’t make sense. Of course they can improve but there’s no guarantee that they will. This idea that it’s ideal preparation is nonsense. The best way to go into any game is off the back of a good performance in the previous one. It’s only logical.
You’re always better to have the base of a good performance to work from. As a player, a good performance has you champing at the bit to go out and back it up the next time out. You might tweak here and there and tailor your game plan to the next opponents but it was always better to be going well than to be having something to prove.
There are definitely times in any player’s career where a shaky performance is partly down to having one eye on a game coming further down the line. Sometimes it just happens and you can’t help it.
When Munster were going for the Heineken Cup in 2008, we were really good in the quarter-final against Gloucester and it felt like we were doing everything right to go and win the tournament.
We had a semi-final to get over against Saracens but there was a lot of expectation around that we would get over it without too much trouble. But of course it didn’t work out like that. Saracens didn’t let us play, they made it very hard for us and played out of their skin.
And even though we had spent the whole week saying how we weren’t going to take our eye off the ball, how we were going to play the game in front of us and not think about the final, there’s no doubt it seeped in there a bit. In our heads, in our preparation, there was no way we underestimated Saracens.