Connacht’s win over Montpellier will be measured by their performance against Glasgow tomorrow night.
Once again Connacht put in a huge performance in France, claiming pole position in pool 2 of the Amlin Challenge Cup, but now they need to back that well-earned victory with a similar result at Firhill in tomorrow night’s return to Magners League action.
Of the two Scottish sides, Glasgow may be under-rated, but they have already taken Munster’s scalp and more recently Cardiff Blues. Their two losses in the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup have left them with an uphill battle to qualify for the quarter-finals of that competition, but the result could well see a greater concentration on the Magners League.
Connacht desperately need a victory to gain momentum in what has been an erratic and disappointing start to the league. The job is to translate their European form to the Magners League, and coach Michael Bradley believes last week’s victory over Montpellier was a step in the right direction.
“The performance was a big step-up in our abilty to take our chances in attack. We scored three excellent tries and some very good rugby was played throughout the match. Our defence held strong, particularly in the last five minutes, so it was a day when more went right for us than wrong.
“In the past we have failed to put together back-to-back wins. If you consider Montpellier a good win, then a win against Glasgow is a good target for us. We put up a good performance against Cardiff, but then against Ulster we were very poor on the night, so we have to change that.in terms of consistency - that is the target for us.”
Happily Bradley is selecting from an almost full deck with Ray Ofisa returning from injury, and Robbie Morris back from suspension. Only youngsters Conor Higgins and lock Dave Nolan are currently injured. However it is likely Ofisa and Morris will start from the bench, while Ian Keatley and Sean Cronin are likely to come in for Miah Nikora and Adrian Flavin.
The fixture will mark Michael Swift’s 159th game for the province since he joined 10 years ago. The 32-years-old has played 158 times for Connacht and is the second most capped player for the province, just three appearances behind the most capped player Eric Elwood.
Glasgow have been boosted with Chris Cusiter’s return to action after recovering from an ankle strain sustained at Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend, while centre Max Evans has also been passed fit. Glasgow will be targeting tomorrow night’s match to record their second win in five outings, and the odds would favour a home win - the last four games between the two sides have been won by the home side. However Connacht’s confidence has been boosted by their sucessive wins in the Challenge Cup.
Captain John Muldoon says it is time Connacht were on the right side of a result in Glasgow.
“We have come close on a lot of ocasions, but it’s been a few years since we have beaten them over there, although at home we really do well against them. They are a quality side and they turn over a lot of teams at home, but we need to back up last week’s win with another performance.
“We have had more players training this week than we have had all season and there are a lot of lads eager to put their hands up and that competition bodes well for this week.”
Connacht (probable ): G Duffy, F Carr, N Ta’asuo, K Matthews, T Nathan, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, B Upton, M McCarthy, J O’Connor, J Muldoon. Replacements, A Flavin, R Morris, R Ofisa, A Browne, C O’Loughlin, M Nikora, T O’Halloran.
• A black tie event will take place in NUI Galway next month to honour Michael Swift’s 10 years as a professional player with Connacht.
The black tie event will be held on Saturday November 21, in the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway. A donation will be made from the event to the IRFU Charitable Trust.
The event will include a drinks reception, four-course meal with wine, guest speaker and music. Tickets cost €95 each or €900 for a table of 10.