Timely return of key players as Conncht head to Wales

Connacht will be boosted ahead of tomorrow night's RaboDirect Pro 12 fixture against the Scarlets with the return of three front-line players.

Captain Gavin Duffy, and flankers John Muldoon, and Willie Fallon have returned to the squad after long term injuries, while Eoin McKeon is also available.

Their return is timely given that Connacht are likely to be without fullback Robbie Henshaw, Mike McCarthy and Dave McSharry on Ireland duty, in addition to continuing injuries to No 8 George Naoupu and prop Denis Buckley as they head to Parc y Scarlets.

With nine games remaining in the RaboDirect, Elwood says Connacht's aim is to improve on last year's eighth place.

"We still think it is possible, albeit with four games at home and five away - but the key for us now is to get something from every game," says Elwood.

"It's a place where we have always struggled, so it is a daunting prospect. The Scarlets are full of beans having put 40 points on Leicester, but we finished the Heineken on a high, so we need to take that confidence to Wales."

Elwood said Connacht's defence would need to be on high alert, having regularly conceded four tries in Lllanelli. However he also paid tribute to defence coach Mike Foreshaw who officially confirmed his return to England at the end of the season.

"Defence does win matches and Mike [Foreshaw] has been a huge addition for us. When I got this job I felt that to be competitive, and for the organisation to move forward, it was important to get a defence expert which we had never had. We have made huge strides in this area which has enabled us to have two best finishes in the past two seasons.

"We have shored up our defence, and it's down to the hard work that Mike has done. He has respect from the players and, as an individual, he is disciplined, tough, and he brought that into how we defend."

Elwood is unlikely to make too many changes to the starting XV that finished the Heineken Cup campaign with victory over Zebre.

Gavin Duffy is expected to slot into fullback, but Muldoon and Faloon are likely to start from the bench. In McSharry’s absence, Elwood can call Kyle Tonetti, Mata Fifita and Brian Murphy who have returned from injury to partner Eoin Griffin.

The Scarlets are missing three national players, but Elwood says it will make little difference.

“We have gone over there in the past when they have had their top players missing and we have been at full strength, and lost. They have a huge squad, but if we can get off to a good start in this block of nine and get something out of this match, it will be a good start.”


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