Connacht’s victory a testament to its Academy

Connacht’s youngsters stole the spotlight in the Sportsground on Tuesday night when they upset Samoa by 26-22.

Coach Eric Elwood decided to field an experimental side for the friendly to give his Magners League XV a rest, and the policy change paid off with several of his youngsters putting their hand up for selection.

“We have a small squad, we haven’t rotated our team much in the Magners, and so to be fair they stood up to the plate and deserve full credit, ” said Elwood.

Every Connacht player put in a brave performance in front of the home crowd and the team’s work rate was excellent for the full 80 minutes. Considering that the Samoan XV were challenging for a starting place against Ireland on Saturday, Connacht’s achievement was nothing short of historic.

“Samoa are a good outfit. There were some guys who played tonight looking for selection on Saturday against Ireland and they couldn’t have envisaged us beating them. It’s a great victory, any victory against an international team is great.”

Connacht showed great creativity when going forward and when this clashed with the Samoan’s sevens style tactics it created a spectacle for the home crowd.

One example of this creativity was when young centre Eoin Griffin attempted a through-the-legs pass and amazingly pulled it off. Griffin was one of the stars of the show in the Sportsground and deservedly picked up the man of the match award after the game.

“Yeah hopefully I’ve put my hand forward for selection in the Magners now,” Griffin said.

With Connacht’s regular outside centre Niva Ta’auso out with an injury for the next couple of months, Griffin will be contention.

“The Connacht Academy has always been a key part of my job with Nigel Carolan. We have always said we wanted to promote our own and if we can fasttrack the Connacht indigenous player, bring him into the senior team and integrate him, that’s what we want to do,” Elwood said.

“We saw evidence of that tonight, particularly from Eoin Griffin and Eoin McKeon who were outstanding.

“We have a hungry squad. Our next game is at home to the Ospreys. We’ll have a full squad and we’ll have great options to choose from.”


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