Connacht hopeful of Parks making his first start
By Linley Mackenzie
Connacht are still waiting final fitness testing on new signing Dan Parks ahead of tomorrow evening’s first interprovincial fixture of the season.
Heineken Cup champions Leinster travel to the Sportsground and it is hoped the former Scottish international will be fit enough to play, if not as the selected No 10, but as a replacement.
Parks returned to training this week and Elwood said he was”hopefu”
“Dan did some conditioning last week and came through ok, but we will have to see how he backs that up over the week.”
Parks was one of 15 players unavailable against Glasgow, and injuries have continued to hamper training. While Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Danie Poolman, Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon, Brian Murphy, and Paul O’Donohue are definately out of action, it is hoped the remainder of the squad will have made a full recovery. Mike McCarthy pulled out of Irish squad training with a quad strain, but he should be fit to return to the second row, while up front Nathan White (shoulder) is expected to line out with Brett Wilkinson and Ethienne Reynecke. It is hoped Tiernan O’Halloran will have recovered from a dead leg after missing last weekend’s fixture, and he or Matthew Jarvis could line out at fullback to replace the injured Connacht captain. Eoin Griffin, if fit, should return to the centre, while outhalf Miah Nikora was also rested last week after suffering a shoulder injury.
Elwood says the continuing injuries has been taking their toll.
“We seem to be picking up injuries every game and not getting the injured guys back as quick as we would like. It’s pretty tough going at the moment.”
Whatever squad Elwood names for tomorrow’s fixture will be tested by a Leinster squad that will also be missing a host of internationals.
“Leinster had a big strong team last weekend and Edinburgh challenged them, but regardless of what team they send down, it will be difficult for us. Derby matches are always special, but you are never going to get an easy one.”
Elwood is concerned with Connacht’s leaky defence, which conceded eight tries in the last two matches.
“We have addressed the issue this week and we are very honest in our assessment - it is not good enough and not acceptable. We cannot tolerate any more. W are far better than that, but statistics don’t ie, Four tries in the last two games is not good enough.”
Elwood said the standard of attacking was getting better, but it was not excuse to leak soft scores.
“Hands up, some of those scores were preventable. W are far better than that, and we will have another opportunity to show that against Leinster - another strong attacking side - and that is the challenge.
“We also have to box a little bit clever and get meander in defence. It is time to start making teams earn their scores.”
Given the number of injuries and disruptions, it is difficult to see Connacht achieving a win over Leinster, despite running them close in the recent past. However Elwood says it is a challenge Connacht have always relished.
“We have an obligation to ourselves and our supporters. We know the last couple of results have not been good, and now we have an opportunity in this derby match to get things right. We are all hurting here at the moment because we are proud of what we do, and now we have a must-win game this Friday.”
Last weekend Connacht, with 15 players unavailable, produced a gutsy display against the Warriors in Scotstoun but lost by 27 - 17.
Althought the home side had taken a 15 - 0 lead in the first half, Connacht showed considerable spirit to fight back, come within a bonus point, but ultimately miss out in this first visit to the Warriors new Scotstoun ground.
“We had 15 guys unavailable, players making their first competitive start, and then we had to reshuffle when Gavin [Dufy] went off, and with all due respects to those players - several of whom were third choice - I thought they were terrific,” Elwood said.
“With 69 nminutes gone on the clock, it was still 22-17 and they deserve a lot of credit against one of the best defensive teams in the league.”
Connacht: G Duffy, J Loxton, R Henshaw, D McSharry, M McCrea, M Jarvis, K Marmion, B Wilkinson, A Flavin, N White, G Naoupu, D Gannon, J O'Connor, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements, J Carty for Duffy (26m), M Fafita for McCrea (57m), M Swift for O'Connor (59m), D Buckley for Wilkinson (61m), D Moore for Marion (65m), R Ah You for White.
Glasgow: P Murchie, S Lamont, A Dunbar, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe, S White, H Pyrgos, R Grant, D Hall, M Low, T Ryder, A Kellock, J Eddie, J Barclay, R Wilson. Replacements, F Gillies for Hall, A Macdonald for Swinson and R Jackson for White (58m), M Cusack for Low and G Reid for Grant (67m), T Nathan for Home (68m).