15 December 2021
Assistant Coach Corniel van Zyl was happy with the Challenge Cup Round 1 showing from London Irish, which ended with the Exiles securing a 17-33 bonus-point win over Pau at the Stade du Hameau.
The former Italy international was especially pleased at how the team executed the game plan.
“I think we produced a performance that was close to the plan that we had for Pau and that is pleasing,” he said.
“It was well executed, but we know there are still areas that we can work on. In general, however, it was a positive step forward.”
Irish picked up all five points last weekend and got off to a great start to their European campaign - points that could prove important come the end of the pool stage.
“European competitions are all about getting out of the pools,” he said.
“Whatever points you can collect all matter come the end of the group stage, so it was good to pick up all five on Saturday.”
Irish welcome Brive to the Brentford Community Stadium this Sunday, and Corniel is expecting a tough challenge from the French outfit.
“Although we were happy with the start, this weekend against Brive presents a different challenge,” he explained.
“Brive were rested last weekend, which can be a good or bad thing. I still think that we can expect a good, physical challenge from them.
“European competitions allow you to come up against different styles from the ones that we face in the Gallagher Premiership or Premiership Rugby Cup. It means preparations are a little different, but focusing on ourselves is the key thing.”
The Exiles are on a five-game winning streak and confidence is high within the group. However, Corniel is keen for the group to stay hungry for results as we head into the festive period.
“Our confidence is growing. It’s good and winning can become a habit, but we all know that it can be taken away very quickly. We are taking each game as it comes and want to keep our focus and ruthlessness.”
As always, the recent results are not just down to just the players on the pitch on game day. It’s a whole squad effort, as Corniel went on to explain.
“Our recent results are not just down the 15 or 23 in the match day squad - it’s a collective group effort that goes in at Hazelwood,” he said.
“The 23 players in a match day squad can’t prepare for a match by themselves. Every member of our squad is important. Whenever the selected player wears the jersey, they are always looking to give their best.”
As a coach, Corniel is relishing the opportunity to test his abilities against new oppositions in Europe.
“I enjoy entering different competitions from a coaching perspective,” he said.
“Sometimes you can get used to the trends in the Premiership, whereas competitions like the Challenge Cup is a unique opportunity to test ourselves against new teams and talents.”
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