THE 42-0 drubbing suffered by Glasgow Warriors the last time they visited Sandy Park in December 2020 is ancient history, and that game won’t be a consideration this week as the team prepare for Saturday’s return to Devon, according to attack coach Nigel Carolan.
“We are a different team now,” reasoned the Irishman, who joined the Warriors backroom team from Connacht last summer so wasn’t implicated in that debacle. “What’s gone before has gone and is in the past. We just talk about our last game and our next one.
“We have only been talking about how we can impose ourselves on Exeter in this game rather than what happened last season.
“I don’t think the headspace was as strong 13 or 14 months ago. I think we’re in a much better place,” Carolan continued
“You look at some of the new guys we’ve brought in, like Jack Dempsey, Sione Tuipulotu and Josh McKay, and the impact they have made.
“Also, you look at some of the guys who have been here and some of the shifts they’ve made over the past year. Guys like Sammy Johnson – he’s a different player now – while Ross Thompson wasn’t even playing on the team 13 or 14 months ago. Cole Forbes, Rufus McLean, Rory Darge as well – they weren’t in the team 13 or 14 months ago either, so they didn’t experience that game.
“All they know is what’s happening right now. That’s all we can live off and that’s what we’ll continue to tap into.”
As far as Carolan is concerned, the 22-7 victory his team achieved when they entertained the English giants last month is of far more relevance.
“We highlighted to our guys today that we totally dominated them on the stats front last time we met,” he said. “We dominated possession, we dominated territory, metres carried, line-breaks, penalties conceded, turnovers – we won the lot.
“And that was down to how we performed, how we turned up on the night and how we really squeezed them and didn’t allow them to play. That was the plan and it worked.
“I know it was difficult to see [because of the pea soup fog which enveloped Scotstoun that night] and we didn’t have a whole lot of footage to show the lads today, but the guys have bought into how we want to play and it materialised there on the scoreboard and the stats sheets. The lads knew they were on top, and Exeter just couldn’t find a way back into it.
“Now Exeter are at home, and they will be a different animal to what we experienced up here. I know they just got turned over by Harlequins in the last minute when they were down to 14 men at the weekend so they’re certainly not a team you look down your nose at and say we’re just going to do it again. We have to turn up with the same mindset, attitude and doggedness and try to squeeze them again this weekend.
“We know they are going to be hurting from that result last weekend. But, from our point of view, we just need to ride the momentum that we have. We are only in control of what we can do.”
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Warriors endured a frustrating festive season with their back-to-back 1872 Cup matches against Edinburgh postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the squad, and Carolan says he is delighted that the team’s performance last weekend indicated that the lay-off has not slowed the momentum they generated with their Exeter win.
“We showed up really well against Ospreys, especially given the break and the fact there was no crowd,” he said. “We know we were in a battle, but we were really composed and there was great energy from the lads, great physicality and that’s exactly what we had against Exeter in early December. It’s pleasing to see how we were able to pick up from where we left off.
“We need to take that attitude and that mindset to Exeter. Nothing changes from that point of view.
“We won’t have the crowd behind us. They’ll have their home support and they’ll be hurting after the last performance against us. They’re going to be a better side and we’re going to need to up our ante as well.”
Both teams are still very much in the hunt for qualification to the knock-out phases of this season’s Champions Cup, so there is a lot riding on Saturday’s game. Carolan says he is in no doubt that Warriors have the ability to pick up a famous win on the road, so long as they can demonstrate the requisite mental fortitude.
“From our point of view, we just need to ride the momentum that we have, we are only in control of what we can do,” he said. “Momentum is the key word. You can look at the momentum of wins and carrying that on into your next game and the energy that comes from that.
“But, also, within the game itself, if you want to win the possession and territory battle, you have to be able to feel the momentum within the game. If momentum is on your side, you have to recognise that and be able to play in the right areas – know when to kick and when to run.
“It’s not the easiest thing to feel all the time, but we got it right in the last game against Exeter and it’s something we’ve spoken about again this week.
“I don’t pretend to be a psychologist, but mindset is massive,” he added. “You have to find a balance between that energy and motivation, but also having a calmness so that you can actually perform in your role.
“That’s where we’re at just now. We know we can turn the physicality dial up if we have to, that comes from the players by and large.
“Things like celebrating small victories on the pitch – you can take energy from that and you can use that to your advantage, especially away from home.”
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