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Marmion demands a return to 2016 standard from Connacht players

The scrum-half is frustrated at the inconsistencies in Connacht’s performances through the season, and says the players shoulder the burden for that.

CONNACHT SCRUM-HALF Kieran Marmion says that players must shoulder responsibility for Connacht’s struggles this season as the search goes on for a new head coach.

The Ireland international was put in a difficult spot on Thursday as he pitched up as Connacht’s representative at the launch of eir Sport’s Pro14 coverage.

Though news of Keane’s exit broke on Monday evening, the province have been unable to issue official confirmation of his departure, so Marmion had a bit of tip-toeing to do.

“He tried to not change too much, but at the same time bring his own touch,” Marmion said of Keane’s first season while unable to acknowledge it doubled as the Kiwi’s last.

“I think as players we tried as much as we could to get into that, I think we did find it a bit tough at times, but I guess as players we didn’t perform on the pitch so that’s down to us.

I think as players we need to maybe set our standards a bit higher again, maybe look back to what got us success two years ago (when they won the Pro12 title).

“This year we’ve probably performed to a higher standard in some games, like the three inter-pros we won at home, which I don’t think we’ve done before, then in games we would expect ourselves to win, we’ve slipped up in.

“So I think a lot of it is making sure we get that consistency week in, week out and to find how we get there is something that, as players and coaches, we need to address, try to make sure we don’t slip up next year.”

Kieran Marmion eir sport and the Guinness PRO14 have agreed a landmark partnership to broadcast every game for the next three years from the 2018/19 season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Those inconsistencies, performances that varied wildly from the seven-try win over Leinster or coming close to a win in Bloemfontein to a home loss to Zebre, is what leaves Marmion frustrated as he faces into an empty May schedule while many of his peers are chasing medals.

“A lot of teams this year had new coaches. A lot of it is players making sure they’re on the same page and coaches making sure the players are on the same page. So I guess you can’t really blame anyone there. As players we didn’t perform. Well, in some games…

It is frustrating because we know where we can get to and how well we can play.

“I think it’s probably pretty easy to get up for games when you’re playing the other provinces, they’re pretty personal games, there’s always a lot on the line and we’re on show there, and we’re trying to get into the Irish squad.

“So they’re pretty easy games to get up for and I think those games that we play against Scottish and Italian sides, we have to make sure we find a way to bring the same intensity.

“As a squad again, as coaches, we have to make sure we sit down and find that formula.”

Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion celebrate after the game Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

There is an opportunity to do just that in the coming weeks as most of the squad remains together in Galway post-season. Clearly the likes of Marmion and Bundee Aki have a tour Down Under to train for, but the rest of the group can train their focus on building towards next season even without a captain and head coach.

“There’s a group of lads who are there in that kind of selection process, but most of the Connacht lads are around for the next two or three weeks doing weights and fitness, so there’s a good few of us around, just keep ticking over.”

“I spoke to Joe yesterday and that’s all we can do, just keep training. Nothing replicates match fitness but there’s nothing we can really do about that so it’s making sure we have training sessions back in Connacht that replicate that as much as possible, that’s what we’re trying to achieve at the moment.”

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Sean Farrell

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