Connacht have a great opportunity to continue their momentum in the RaboDirect Pro 12 when they take on Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales tomorrow evening (7pm ).
Having moved up the table following their merited 18-3 victory over Treviso before the autumn international break, Connacht coach Eric Elwood will be keen to ensure they keep ahead of their opponents.
Traditionally fixtures between the two clubs have been tight affairs with the home side edging the result, but last season’s 27 - 19 victory in Rodney Parade ensured Connacht achieved a season double over the Dragons.
On that occasion Connacht displayed real attacking prowess in the opening half and a well organised and committed second-half defensive display, and Elwood will expect the same again.
However the Dragons, in 11th place, enter this fixture having lost seven on the trot, and they will view Connacht as a chance to get their league campaign back on track.
Both sides have been hit by the international series and Elwood will be without John Muldoon whose knee ligament injury during last weekend’s Ireland international against Fiji is expected to keep him sidelined for a few months. The loss of this talismanic figure is a huge loss for Connacht, but Elwood was delighted with Andrew Browne’s performance against Treviso in what was his first start for some time. Likewise Eoin McKeown has performed well in the absence of George Naoupu who remains a doubt with an on-going ankle injury. Back from injury is hooker Ethienne Reynecke, but still sidelined are TJ Anderson, Eoin Griffin, Frank Murphy, Dave Nolan and Kyle Tonetti so Elwood is expected to keep faith with most of the side that started against Treviso.
While the Dragons played LV Cup rugby over the previous two weeks, Connacht have enjoyed a two-week break after a tough 10-game series. Form and the statistics would point to a Connacht victory, but only if they play to potential and maintain their superior discipline and defence. Although Connacht are three places above the Dragons on the league table, they are only five points ahead, and they must take the chance to extend that lead tomorrow.
This weekend Connacht supporters can return to the Sportsground to watch the Connacht Eagles take on Leinster A tomorrow at 5pm.
This will be the Eagles’ first match since losing to Newcastle Falcons last month in the B&I Cup.