Turning an opening day Champions Cup defeat into an incentive is a must for Connacht ahead of their visit to Saracens next Saturday, says head coach Pete Wilkins. “What a carrot now to go away to Saracens and see what we can do to them,” he says, after Connacht suffered a 41-5 loss to Bordeaux Begles at the Galway Sportsground last evening.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult challenge - the quality Bordeaux brought, and now we head to Saracens with the European pedigree they have and internationals across the board.
“I don’t want to sound excited too soon, but in terms of incentive and having a full week to prepare and put the bits in place around selection and training, we couldn’t wish for a better scenario.”
However, Wilkins acknowledges his review on Monday will involve some direct talking. “We have to work through this review and be pretty blunt with the players and each other on what we could and should have done better.”
Wilkins was more concerned with Connacht’s performance than the result. “You never want the game to get away from you, which it absolutely did, but I think it was more the type of performance which disappointed me, particularly in the first half.
“There were errors in the second half, but I just felt we were a step behind Bordeaux for all the first half, and you could see it in how we attacked, in how we defended, reacted to turnover ball, you could see in our kick chase - I just think we were one step behind.
“What that did was give them opportunities to build belief, and I think a French team coming to Galway in mid winter - and even good teams would wonder which way it is going to go - but when you give them that foothold in the game, they start to get that confidence, and they are too good a team not to play on the back of that platform.”
Although Connacht were down 5-12 at half-time, Connacht had failed to turn attacking opportunities into points. “We showed we could do some damage against them, and at 12-5 we were still very much in it, but we had given them too much of a foothold in terms of us being too reactive to the play.
“You could see when Bordeaux got their offloading game going, we would scamper after it to try to shut it down, whereas if you are one step ahead, you are hard up in that space to catch that offload-receiving player, man and ball. We were too slow to the race, and the same when we would look to counterattack. Where we were dangerous against Leinster last week with that sort of ball, we weren’t set or in position to go.”
Wilkins insists it is not for a lack of effort by the players. “I just thought it was a lack of that sharpness and ability to be in the moment, and try to be one step ahead of the opposition. On the back of that, they were able to accumulate more and more points in the second half.”