London Welsh head coach Phil Greening is all too aware of the size of the task that awaits the Exiles on Sunday, but insists that the Dragons will not be daunted by the challenge.
Welsh travel to Mennaye Field (5:45pm) for their Championship semi-final against Cornish Pirates knowing that they will have to emulate what only Worcester have achieved so far this season in the league – beat the Pirates in their own backyard.
“It’s a huge task, but for us there’s nothing better than having a big challenge and facing up to it,” said Greening. “If we do the hard work and we’re up for the challenge, to win down there would just make everything a lot sweeter.”
A huge task for the Exiles, but they’ll be motivated by a huge incentive – to go one step further than last season’s semi-final defeat at the hands of Bristol.
Sixteen of London Welsh’s current playing squad from that defeat at the Memorial Stadium are still at the club, and Greening believes that will be a big motivating force.
“It’s been a long journey since that semi-final defeat. Some of the boys have been here before and they know what losing in a semi is like and I think that’s going to spur everyone on,” he said. “Experience gives you the tools to do stuff, but it’s the planning and the courage that gives you the chance to do it.”
The Exiles go into the game in good form having won four of the play-off games, with their only defeats coming in two absorbing matches against Championship favourites Worcester.
“We planned to do that, to hopefully peak at this time and it’s been good so far, but obviously it is only so far,” said Greening. “We need to continue the momentum and make sure we go into this weekend a fully prepared, battle hardened and hard to beat team. And that form, coupled with a full squad to pick from, has given Greening a few sleepless nights ahead of Sunday’s semi-final.
“Along with our conditioners (Paul Cater and Lee Eldridge), physios Chris Jenkins and Lucinda Deekes have been fantastic – they’ve got everyone out on the pitch,” he said. That’s now given us a massive headache. But everyone knows they’ve got to perform everyday to their best, otherwise so many people can jump above them.”
For Greening, success for Welsh on Sunday will all come down to details, and he and assistant coach Mike Friday have been busy the last two weeks ensuring that no stone is left unturned in the squad’s preparations.
“If we get those little details right we’re halfway there to hopefully competing well against the Pirates,” he said. “It’s been a good couple of weeks; we’ve had the whole squad fully fit and that’s just made it all the better.
“There’s been a tremendous difference in attitude. As soon as we knew we were guaranteed to be in the semi-finals you could see the change in attitude of everyone at the club. For us now it’s about getting the details right, because there is no next week.”