Connacht have a chance to redeem themselves after last week’s mauling at the hands of Cardiff when they host the current Magners League champions Leinster on Sunday at the Galway Sportsground (6pm ).
Connacht simply cannot play any worse than they did against the Blues who dished out a 58 - 0 hammering at Arms Park, and as a result a much improved performance, particularly in defence, is expected on Sunday. There is also the incentive of playing this interprovincial, and Connacht usually raise their performances against the home provinces.
They will need to, and Connacht coach Michael Bradley was unusually hard-hitting in his criticism of last weekend’s performance. “ In a professional sport that cannot be accepted. What happened in the run-up to half-time cannot be allowed again,” he said in the aftermath.
It was Connacht’s worst performance of the Magners League as Cardiff ran in nine tries. They bagged their bonus point by the 32nd second, and still went on to record another three tries before the break in a complete whitewash. Connacht's problems stemmed from their porous defence, and although they did enjoy some reasonable patches of play, the Blues' rampant start had Connacht on the back foot throughout. There were also some individual performances from captain John Muldoon, John Hearty, Andy Dunne (despite missing a straight-forward penalty ), and replacement Liam Bibo - but outside of that Connacht lacked cohesion - for the second successive away match in Wales.
Connacht can expect a similar assault from Leinster, who will be smarting after their loss to Munster. In a high-tempo game it was Munster who prevailed with their three-quarters doing all the damage against Leinster’s illustrious backs.
Coach Michael Cheika has indicated he will be making some changes for Sunday’s match with Stephen Keogh, Gary Brown, summer signing Simon Keogh, Felix Jones, and Fergus McFadden included in the squad.
"Some guys are going to get an opportunity to get selected for Europe. So it's a big game, in all respects for us, because we know how tough it is to win down there. They'll be looking to bounce back from getting beaten away from home last weekend so we've got to be ready to fight for everything, but we've also got to play smart football.
"Some guys from the 'A' squad have put their hand up for selection so we'll see what happens there. Cian Healy picked up a knock in the 'A' game so we'll wait and see how he comes up when we pick the side."
Michael Bradley, meanwhile, is expected to name his team today. Keith Matthews and Gavin Duffy are both back from injury, and it is likely the bulk of the team that started against Glasgow will line out, given their response on that occasion after a similar poor performance the previous week against the Llanelli. Mike Roberts, who made his Magners League debut last weekend, is likely to retain his position on the wing, with John Hearty and Liam Bibo vying for the second spot. Andy Dunne did reasonably well in last Friday’s fixture, but he is out with a calf strain, while Ray Ofisa and Adrian Flavin are out of action with shoulder and rib injuries respectively.
Defence will once again be the highest priority for Michael Bradley’s men if they want to stop the likes of O’Driscoll, Fitzgerald, Horgan, and Contepomi, while in the forwards Connacht will get a thorough work-out at scrum time.
Realistically Connacht will not be expected to win this one, but they will be expected to turn in a performance that will restore some pride and diminish the doom and gloom following their two poor results in Wales. There will be no excuse at home in front of a big home support.
Connacht squad (probable ): Forwards: B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M McCarthy, A Farley, J Muldoon, J O’Connor, C Rigney, R Loughney, C Muldoon, A Browne, M Swift. Backs, F Carr, M Roberts, J Hearty, G Duffy, K Matthews, I Keatley, F Murphy, L Bibo, K Campbell, T Nathan.
Leinster squad: Forwards: Cian Healy, Stan Wright, Brian Blaney, John Fogarty, CJ Van Der Linde, Leo Cullen, Trevor Hogan, Cameron Jowitt, Devin Toner, Rocky Elsom, Sean O'Brien, Stephen Keogh. Backs: Chris Keane, Chris Whitaker, Felipe Contepomi, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Keogh, Fergus Mc Fadden, Luke Fitzgerald, Gary Brown, Shane Horgan, Felix Jones, Rob Kearney