Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Long journey did not affect me: Afoa

Tight-head John Afoa dismissed the idea that returning to New Zealand to be with his wife for the birth of their third child played a part in Ulster's demise on Saturday night.

The 2011 World Cup winner made light of the arduous journey back home which saw him leave four days after the arrival of daughter Violet to rejoin the squad in Belfast.

The ultra-professional former All Black flies back again today following this assessment of his build-up to Ulster's biggest match of the season: "Of course it's not ideal, but it was important for me to go home and do my family thing. If I didn't do that I think it would have affected me more.

"I was happy enough. I've done that trip a few times. I had a plan from JD (Jonny Davis, Ulster's strength and conditioning coach) so I trained Monday-Tuesday back in New Zealand, travelled Wednesday and trained Thursday-Friday with the team."

He said he was "happy enough" with his personal contribution to the match and on Ulster's overall performance added: "There were mistakes and they caught us. If you don't turn up and play well you lose, it's as easy as that."

And although Saracens captain Steve Borthwick's post-match analysis was that his side's scrummaging improved as the game unfolded – "We identified a problem and at half-time identified a strategy to solve it" was the England lock's take – Afoa saw it differently.

"I don't think anything changed," he said. "They've got a good pack but just because we didn't get anything off them in the scrum doesn't mean we had a bad day at the office.

"They got a late penalty which I though was harsh and when you've got John Smit with 100 tests coming on (from the bench), he brings a helluva lot."

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