Connacht must capitalise on depleted Warriors

Eric Elwood, who was unveiled yesterday, as the successor to coach Michael Bradley.   See page 43.

Eric Elwood, who was unveiled yesterday, as the successor to coach Michael Bradley. See page 43.

Connacht return to the Galway Sportsground for the first time since December, targetting a much-needed victory against a Glasgow Warriors side missing its Scottish internationals.

When they host the Warriors tomorrow evening (8pm ), Connacht know this is an opportunity they simply must grab if they are to get themselves off the bottom of the Magners League table this season.

The match, one of six remaining home fixtures, comes at a crucial time in Connacht’s season. With Connacht officially unveiling Eric Elwood as Michael Bradley’s replacement amid an IRFU review of Connacht, hopes are high that supporters will come out in force to support their province.

Connacht’s form at home has been strong this season, and coupled with their European record and their most recent bonus-point loss away to the Ospreys, there is increasing confidence within the squad.

Yet their strong showing against the Ospreys in Swansea did not impress coach Michael Bradley.

“ It was a massive opportunity gone abegging. We had a lot of opportunties in that game, particularly in the first half and we had a competitive advantage in the scrum. The Ospreys got two very soft tries and two soft penalties which accounts for their scores so it was not a good day at the office. We were very disappointed at the end of that game.”

As a result there is an increasing urgency within the squad to get a result tomorrow.

“There is pressure on us to win the match and expectation is that, with a lot of commitments to the Scottish national side, we need to go out and dominate them. We need to win the game on the basis that they are going to be short of players.”

Definitely out for the Warriors are captain Alastair Kellock, Chris Cusiter, Dan Parks, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie who are all rested ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash on Saturday week.

Connacht, however, also have a few injury worries with the likelihood that Liam Bibo (calf ) and Niva Ta’auso, (medial ligament ) will be missing, while Ray Ofisa, who has a virus, is also a major doubt. Andrew Browne (ankle ) remains on the injured list, while Bernie Upton is likely to start from the bench following the birth of his first child this week.

As a result Aidan Wynne is likely to come into the centre alongside Keith Matthews, while Johnny O’Connor will take over from Ray Ofisa in the back row. Mike McCarthy is expected to link up with Michael Swift in the second row.

Until the last round Glasgow had been leading the league table, but fell to Cardiff last time out. They will travel to Galway intent on taking the points as the fight for the play-off places hots up.

Head coach Sean Lineen, who will name his starting XV today, says Glagow are prepared for a tough battle against Connacht.

“ Connacht are on a roll with the way they're playing right now and they are a hard team to beat at home. We've got a group of players here who are hurting after the Cardiff game. They know that how our season progresses is in their hands and it's a huge responsibility, but I know they can do it."

Bradley knows that Glasgow’s loss to Cardiff stemmed from three penalty misses and a defensive lapse.

“They are coming here with a view of getting something out of the game to put them in position for the top four. They were not overly impressive in attack and our defence has been strong this year so we will be concentrating on ourselves, and what we do to them rather than what they are doing,” Bradley says.

Connacht captain John Muldoon says Glasgow are still a quality side despite missing some of their internationals.

“Our home form has been good and the crowd plays a big part. Pride in wanting to put on a good show at home is always a factor, and we need to make up for the last two results.”

The pressure is on Connacht, but if they are to capitalise on a side missing its internationals, a win is the only acceptable result.

Connacht (possible ): G Duffy, T Nathan, K Matthews, A Wynne, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon (cpt ), J O’Connor, G Naoupu.

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