International Robbie Henshaw is expected to return to action for Connacht in tomorrow evening’s Guinness Pro 12 joust with Edinburgh at Murrayfield (7.35pm ).
Having recovered from the hand injury which kept him out of Ireland's summer tour to Argentina, Henshaw was back to full training this week after successful surgery on damaged ligaments. He is expected to join fellow Ireland squad member Kieran Marmion in Pat Lam’s starting line-up.
However the biggest doubt is flanker Jake Heenan, who damaged the same shoulder which saw him sidelined for the last six months. Heenan was due to have further tests this week, but Lam will not risk the young openside if there is any question mark of his full fitness.
Captain John Muldoon (hamstring ) and Quinn Roux (dead leg ) sat out training early in the week, but are expected to recover fully.
After last weekend’s opening day 16-11 victory over the visiting Dragons, Lam is not expected to make any unnecessary changes. Fullback Shane Layden is the most likely player to miss out with Henshaw’s return, while openside Willie Faloon should come in for Heenan.
Although Connacht grabbbed a vital opening day win, Lam says the performance would not be good enough against Edinburgh, who overcame Munster in Thomond Park by 14-13.
“ Edinburgh are physical and direct and we have to be on our game. If we drop our intensity, we can get eaten alive there,” says Lam, who witnessed Edinburgh’s domination of the front five.
However Connacht’s pack also put in a massive shift against the Dragons, providing the platform for victory.
“They [forwards] were massive. It is good to have Nathan White back and Dave Heffernan and Denis Buckley [man of the match] did a tremendous job against guys who are bigger. Dan McFarland is doing an incredible job and they are working as a unit. We were able to put them under pressure at crucial times to get a good platform.”
However Lam is looking for greater precision in attack.
“We had try opportunities, but we didn’t execute [against Dragons]. If we had run the right lines and passed at the right time, we would have scored. At this level, you only get a few opportunities and you have to make the most of them, but it showed that when we drop our intensity, whether line-speed, defence or movement, we are pretty average.”
Lam will also be looking for his young squad to close out games more comfortably, after the Dragons closed the gap in the final 10 minutes to grab a bonus point.
“ Although we didn't manage as well as we could have, we are conscious of the amount of games we lost [last season] by around seven points which cost us a really good finish.
“We’ve talked about it, and addressed it and the biggest thing is the calmness, but we will still could have managed the last 10 minutes a bit better.”
Academy fullback Shane Layden’s dummy set up a counterattack before super hands from White, McSharry, Darragh Leader, and pacy debutant Niyi Adeolokun enabled No 8 Eoin McKeon to cross after 10 minutes. Leader, having missed the conversion, added a penalty five minutes later to stretch the lead to 8-0. However Lyn Jones' side capitalised on a Connacht over-throw, and found space out wide for openside Nic Cudd to cross. When McSharry was yellow carded for failing to retreat from a quick tap penalty, Tovey levelled the game at the break.
Connacht enjoyed the better third quarter with Leader adding a 50th minute penalty before the Dragons had the first of two players sinbinned. Connacht took advantage when left wing Danie Poolman showed goalkeeping skills to catch Carty's perfectly-weighted crossfield kick and touch down for the winning try.
Scorers: Connacht, E McKeon, D Poolman 2 tries; D Leader 2 pens. Newport Gwent Dragons, N Cudd try; J Tovey 2 pens.
Connacht: S Layden; N Adeolokun, D Leader, D McSharry, D Poolman; J Carty, I Porter; D Buckley, D Heffernan, N White; M Kearney, Q Roux; J Muldoon, J Heenan, E McKeon. Replacements, G Naoupu for McKeon (HT ), K Marmion for Porter (52 ), W Faloon for Muldoon (55 ), R Ah You for White (60 ), M Nikora for Carty and C Finn for Leader (65m ), S Henry for Heffernan (74 ), F Bealham for Buckley (79 ).