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Tom Johnson: Taking care of those little things made a big difference against Welsh

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 27, 2013

Here Damian Welch epitomises everything we worked on in the week as he commits more than one London Welsh tackler to halt his ball carry  picture: Mat Mingo/Pinnacle

Here Damian Welch epitomises everything we worked on in the week as he commits more than one London Welsh tackler to halt his ball carry picture: Mat Mingo/Pinnacle

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A good win can do wonders for the atmosphere at a rugby club – and Sandy Park has certainly been a happier place after we beat London Welsh on Saturday.

It was quite an impressive result, bearing in the mind the run of form that we've been going through. A five-point win has really put us back in the mix at the right end of the table.

For me, the most obvious change from previous weeks was the attitude of the players, but not in terms of training or anything like that – we all train hard and work hard.

It was more in terms accepting a tackle and trying to make an impact on the game, rather than just trying to do a job. The best thing from the weekend for me were the ball carries. You could see the boys were carrying with a real attitude, a real spikiness. You could tell it was going to take a good tackle, or more than one person, to bring them down.

The boys spoke about that in the week, and then they put it on the field, which is what it's all about.

It's not necessarily something you can turn off and on either. You can go on a slippery slope where you think it's good one week but then four weeks down the line it's not very good.

Then, if you look back at the games on video you can notice a very small decrease in the intensity of the carries or the attitude, but because it's such a small decrease you don't realise you're doing it at the time.

You get to a point where you accept that something has to change, which is what we did.

In the week, during training, that means finishing off every move, being as hard on yourself as you can, and setting a standard.

Everyone talks about crossing the line in training to be focused and in the right frame of mind, because you're not out there for a huge amount of time. The idea is to maximise, and actually get something out of the training session; to learn something.

It does take concentration, and will to do that. The team that trained last week, you could definitely sense an energy about them, that we probably hadn't had for a few weeks.

People might ask why we don't do that every week, but it just doesn't work like that. We'll probably be fine for a while now, but then something might creep in and the whole thing has to be re-addressed.

If it does, we'll see it on video. Rob and the rest of the coaches spend a lot of time painstakingly reviewing our games.

On the video editing software there is a section for what we call 'highlights', which are such things as big tackles, big ball carries, if you catch a restart, or drive a maul, or if you smash a ruck and blow it to pieces, or get a turnover.

When we win, we tend to have a good number of them. But when we lose, or play poorly, there aren't so many.

Then there are the dreaded checks – we have to watch them, too. Rob's quite tough with his checks. You might get one for a missed tackle, which you know is your fault, but you may also get one for not getting up quick enough from a tackle.

If you've had a bit of a bad game you tend to get a few checks, but you could still win well, and play well, and get just as many.

He's trying to be critical to get things right. Checks are normally quite small things, so if you get them right your game will really improve.

Rob sits and watches every game and codes each incident. Say you're in defence, and you make a tackle or clear out a ruck in attack, he'll click on your name and then move on to the next piece of play. It's very time consuming

Once he's coded it then Chuck, our analysis guy, puts all the information into charts and works out percentages.

People bounce in on a Monday when we've won because they want to look at the highlights and the tries they've scored. When we've lost there's a bit more trepidation, people tend to talk about the checks when there's been a bad performance.

The coaches tend to be very critical, but in a positive way. They will then try to put right in training things we've not done well during the game.

This weekend we have Quins away, who are top of the league and doing very well.

I think the boys are full of confidence, but it's going to be very tough and we'll need to sort out some of the things we didn't do quite so well against Welsh.

Quins love to play rugby, and so do we, so I'm sure there will be some tries involved.

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