Connacht prepare for Munster backlash in Thomond Park

Connacht resume their URC campaign after a lengthy November break when they travel to Thomond Park for another crunch interprovincial (Saturday 7.35pm ).

In a congested URC table, there is much to gain for both sides, with a single point separating the two Irish clubs in the bottom half of the URC table.

It will ensure a real full-blooded encounter as Munster find themselves in the unusual position of sitting in 14th place of 16 teams - Connacht are two places above, but with just one superior point.

Andy Friend's side know what to expect from a Munster outfit in this position, particularly having suffered a loss to Connacht by 20-11 in October.

Both will feature players involved in the November games, but Connacht is likely to be missing Mack Hansen, who remains a “long shot “ after taking a heavy knock.

“The guidance we’ve been given is that we can play [internationals] in seven of the next nine, and we can pick and choose when they are,” he says.

It is certainly the right occasion for Friend to field his in-form international players, including prop Finlay Bealham, who Friend says enjoyed “good dominance” in the scrum and “was heavily involved in winning that penalty” in Ireland's latest, but hard-fought win over Australia.

“I think it was a good Autumn Series for our fellas. It was great to see Cian Prendergast get his first cap during that block, and to see Gavin Thornbury and Caolan Blade staying with the senior squad through that programme. I thought Mack was a centimetre away from one of the great Irish tries, but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.”

After a 10-day break during the international window, Friend says Connacht’s focus ahead of Munster has been “tidying a few areas that need sharpening up”, particularly the attack.

“We need to be far more clinical as a side that is the sixth best to get into the 22, but we’re certainly sitting down the bottom in terms of points scores, so that tells you that we are making errors when we get in the 22, and that has been a key focus, to tidy that up.

“We know we have a lot of work to do if we are going to come away with a win, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that happens,” says Friend, who officially confirmed his departure from the province at the end of his fifth season in charge.

With both sides desperate to make their way into the top half of the table, there is a greater intensity to this fixture, despite not yet halfway in the competition.

After a poor start to the season, Connacht finished round seven with three wins in the last four, including a 20-11 victory over Munster, ensuring this return fixture will have plenty of bite.

“We are all very aware of the first seven games, and I feel like we dug our way out of what was a little bit of a hole. Yet at the eight-game mark everyone is looking at it, saying, ‘Jesus, if you can win that one, or if you don’t win, it can put in either a healthy spot or a place of real disadvantage’, so our intention is to go there and win, and I believe we have a game plan to be able to do that. It’s now up to us to get the players in the right headspace and go there and execute.”


Page generated in 0.2302 seconds.