Connacht cannot be complacent against improving Italians

Eric Elwood is warning his Connacht side against complacency ahead of Friday's meeting with Aironi at the Galway Sportsground.

Elwood says Connacht are in no position to take any team for granted and certainly not an Italian side that will be targeting Friday's game to achieve an elusive victory in this season's Magners League.

Although Aironi have yet to post a win, Elwood says the Italians have shown considerable improvement.

"They are getting better and better. In the last seven games no team has taken five points off them, and I have no doubt they will beat someone soon and I just hope it's not us.

“All the statistics would suggest it is going to be an easy game, but we do not see at it like that . We are not taking anything for granted because we are in no position to take anything for granted.”

With the exception of Ireland replacement, hooker Sean Cronin, Elwood expects to have a full team from which to select for Friday's game as Connacht seek to continue their run of home victories, which has seen them climb from 11th place to eighth following wins over the Warriors and Treviso.

Aironi, says Elwood, are similar to Treviso - playing direct and physical rugby while working hard in defence, and he is taking last week’s game as a template for how Connacht will need to show greater composure, particularly having allowed Treviso back into the game.

“They will pride themselves on their set piece and maul and they like to scrummage - they also kick to put the opposition under pressure, and they possess a capability to chuck the ball around as well, so we are expecting a physical battle and a tough confrontation.”

Last Friday night Connacht did struggle on occasions against a big Treviso back, which resulted in a penalty try in the second half, but the 31-25 victory ensured they climbed into eighth place on the Magners League table.

They made hard work of it, having controlled the game for long periods, but three tries in a sparkling opening 50 minutes was sufficient in the end to see off the Italians who came back within seven points to gain a bonus point.

Connacht, playing a high tempo and expansive game, were the better of the two sides and led by 18 - 0 after 24 minutes. A swift backline move saw centre Troy Nathan cross for the first try after three minutes, and scrumhalf Frank Murphy added the second with prop Jamie Hagan doing the damage close to the line. Keatley stretched the lead to 18- 0 , but the Italians tried and tested pack started to make an impact, breaking the gain line with a series of drives. But it was Connacht’s failure to deal with a loose ball that led to right wing Michele Sepe touching down, while flanker Vasawai powered over from a penalty kicked to touch.

Connacht finished the half the stronger with two Keatley penalties, and when Brian Tuohy grabbed the third try seven minutes into the second half after a counter-attack initiated by Murphy, the home side looked certain to grab a bonus win.

Instead Connacht lost their way and composure, failing to retain possession and conceding a host of penalties on which the visitors capitalised. Two penalties from outhalf De Waal and a penalty try set up a tense finish, but Connacht survived to claim their fourth successive win at home.

Connacht: G Duffy, B Tuohy, N Ta'auso, T Nathan, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagain, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O'Connor (cpt ), R Ofisa. Replacements, R Loughney for Wilkinson and Rodney Ah You for Hagan (63m ).

•Connacht have been boosted with the recruitment of Ulster backrow TJ Anderson on a two year contract and with Brett Wilkinson’s contract extension that will see him at the province until 2013. Mike McComish will be leaving, returning to his native Ulster.


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