Connacht expecting arm-wrestle in 'must-win' PRO14 fixture

Eoghan Masterson is back in contention for Connacht's trip to Newport tomorrow.

Eoghan Masterson is back in contention for Connacht's trip to Newport tomorrow.

It is another tricky assignment. In Rodney Parade tomorrow evening (7.35pm ) Connacht go in search of a Guinness PRO14 victory to put recent defeats behind them.

A "must-win game, " admits coach Andy Friend of this rearranged fixture. "We haven't had too many wins in the last six or seven games. "Winning breeds winning, and that is our intention so it sets us up for the last five games."

Coming on the back of four successive home defeats that has helped Munster extend their comfortable lead of Conference B, it has also allowed the chasing posse to close the gap on Connacht's second spot.

"We put ourselves in that position. Are Munster too far away from us? Possibly. Are we going to finish in six rounds? Possibly. All we know is that have to keep winning football and this game of football.

"I can promise you too, that players and everyone hurts when we are losing. So we have another opportunity to go to Rodney Parade and try to improve on that last performance. We can be better than that."

Connacht will be without five Ireland squad members, including Quinn Roux, who has returned from Ireland camp with a neck injury, but Eoghan Masterson comes back into contention, while Paddy McAllister and Tiernan O'Halloran returned to training this week. Unavailable are Sam Arnold, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald, Cillian Gallagher, Stephen Kerins, while both Sean O’Brien and Ben O'Donnell are following return to play protocols.

Dragons currently sit in fifth place in Conference A with just three wins from nine - but only a point adrift of Glasgow, there is huge incentive to make home advantage count. Having endured a four-week break from competitive action, coach Dean Ryan says his players are fired up for Connacht's visit.

He plans to use this fixture - the first of five home games for them - to make a run for Champions Cup rugby next season.

"We have to challenge ourselves again to hit the ground running on Friday and get into this run as quickly as we can so we can start to gather momentum," Ryan says."If we can get back to the levels that we were performing at, then we can challenge ourselves to get better reults, this week is the start of it."

Richard Hibbard, hooker and former Lion, makes his 50th appearance for the club which boasts some 15 international players, not least Jamie Roberts, along with experienced outhalf Sam Davies, dynamic backrow Ollie Griffiths, scrumhalf Rhodri Williams and Jordan Williams if fully fit.

Connacht will need to hit the ground running, and certainly Friend will be looking for clinical execution, and better communication and decision making that has proved costly in the last month.

It is certainly a winnable game, but, as Friend says, Connacht will need to win the "arm wrestle".

"We haven't found our right formula yet - we've certainly been there or thereabouts. What we do know is that the Dragons are pretty similar to us with a stop-start sort of season.

"We had success there last year and I do believe they are a team we can beat. At the same time, if we do not turn up, they have enough in their armory to make it tricky for us. Butt we are going there to pick up points which we have to do to stay alive in our conference. That is our target."

 

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