Leinster flanker shane JENNINGS made a winning return to rugby on Saturday as he helped his team to a hard-fought 16 — 13 win over Connacht at the RDS.
TheScore.ie caught up with Jennings post-match and found him to be in frank and refreshing form. The following is a question and answer session with ourselves and reporters from 98FM and FM104.
How did you find it out there?
SJ: There’s not an awful lot to talk about. It was a pretty grim game, we played poorly; not much rugby played. We won; we’re delighted we won. That’s about the height of it.
It was a bit of a free-for-all at the breakdown.
A pain. Everything was pretty painful; the direction we were getting from the ref, the way we were playing, the way we were interpreting it. Both times have to respect how [the ref] wants to play it. You’ve got to listen to him, you’ve got to adapt and we didn’t do it as well as we should have. At times, we did. We got phases together, we got penalties and so did they. We infringed at the breakdown and they got their points. They kicked a lot of ball, went for territory and were good at it. Dogged team, as they always are. It was grim.
You don’t sound too relieved to have got the points?
It’s a win. That’s about the height of it. We don’t enjoy playing in those games; I’m sure Connacht don’t either. We’re delighted we came out the right side of it. You take the positives out of it. I don’t mean to come across dour or negative but that’s the reality; it wasn’t an enjoyable game. I can’t imagine it was too enjoyable to watch. The positive is, we’ve won at home, we’ve got our four points. We’ve got to learn from that, we’ve to cop on and we’ve to improve.
You’re obviously not happy. Are you as angry with the team as much as you are with the ref?
You can’t rely on the referees. They’ve a job to do. We’ve got to take them out of the equation. You’ve got to interpret what he’s trying to get across. There was a lot of infringements at the breakdown, for side entries, and if that’s the way he was playing it, we’ve got to adapt to it. We’ve got to be better at it and we weren’t. It was a very start-stop game and it was very hard to get into it.
Jennings is tackled by Craig Ronaldson and Tiernan O’Halloran. INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Generally, at this stage of the season Leinster get into their groove. What’s stopping you this time?
No, I don’t think anything is stopping us. We got a win; that’s good. We’ve come off two Heineken Cup wins, we beat Connacht. We’re winning games so we’re happy with that. Of course, we want to scores tries and that’s something we’ll have to look at but it’d be an awful lot different if we were losing games, not scoring tries and not winning. At least we’re doing something right. But, like I said, it’s the players that have to take responsibility. We got good direction all week from our coaches. We knew what to expect but we didn’t perform and it’s the players that are responsible for.
You knew what to expect from the referee or Connacht?
From both; of course. We knew what they were going to be like — they’re always physical, they’re always good, always well drilled. They are always up to play Leinster, like we are to [play] them. We just didn’t perform. We had a good week’s prep, we trained well, we were up for it but it came to today and we didn’t perform. We’ve got to take that on the chin and look at ourselves. Coaches can’t flick the switch for us on match-days. But, with all the negative talk I’ve just hit you with, we still dug it out in the second half and we were there, in their area, we weren’t going to leave without a try.
There seems to have been a greater emphasis on defence since Matt O’Connor arrived.
I don’t think so. I think we’re getting the balance right. It’s the same [training] set-up that we’ve had for the last number of years, with attack days and defence days. Matt just has more of a control on what way he wants us to defend. That’s probably the only difference. We focus on attack as much as we have done in previous years. It’s no different; we’ve just got to click. We’ve got to keep working at it. It’s going to be a bit of a slog but that’s the nature of it.
You made your comeback tonight after your injury but you must be disappointed it came too late to be included in the Ireland squad?
Yeah. I’m pissed off. Devastated I didn’t make the squad. I was devastated that I broke my hand but these things happen. No point in whinging about it. Joe [Schmidt] picks the team he wants and that’s the team he wants. I want to be in there, he doesn’t want me, so I’ve got to take it on the chin and play here to try and get back into it. It’s not going to be easy watching it but that’s the reality.