Best finish still the target for Elwood’s men

After an unexpected three week break from action, Connacht head to Edinburgh for a crucial clash in their bid to finish this season’s campaign on a high.

Both sides are neck and neck on championship points, and if Connacht want to maintain their ambition for a highest finish in the league, a victory at Murrayfield is essential.

Victories are hard to eke out in Edinburgh - in the last eight visits to the home of Scottish Rugby, Connacht's only victory was 16-13 in 2005, while earlier this season Connacht left victory behind them when Edinburgh got out of the Sportsground with a 24-23 win.

Elwood’s preparations continue to be hampered by injuries, and of course, the lack of a competitive match for two weeks due to the postponement of the Treviso fixture.

Definitely out of action are prop Denis Buckley (knee ), Willie Faloon (ankle ), Eoghan Grace (thumb ), Jason Harris-Wright (calf ), Dave McSharry (groin ), Johnny O’Connor (ankle ), and Frank Murphy (knee ), who has returned to light running.

Flu also prevented Andrew Browne, Ronan Lougney, Ethiene Reynecke and James Loxton from taking part in training earlier this week.

Connacht had been set to redress their poor performance against Munster when they travelled to Treviso two ago, but the postponent has not helped their cause.

“There is no substitute for games, so the interruption has not been kind to us,” says Elwood, “but it is how we bounce back after that two week break, and that is the challenge for us in this game, particularly away from home.”

Elwood says Connacht are still aiming for a best finish with four games to play - albeit with two home matches against title hopefuls Ulster and Edinburgh.

“We are playing Edinburgh below us, and we still have Treviso to play, and that is our intention. We have two tough ones to finish in Glasgow and Ulster, but there is still a hell of a lot to play for in those four games and a lot of things still in our control.

“We are still looking for that improvement year-on-year and it is very much a target in our sights and it starts this weekend with Edinburgh.”

Elwood is unlikely to make changes to the side that was due to play Treviso, although Michael Swift comes back into contention. Adrian Flavin is in line to earn his 140th cap for the province after announcing his retirement this week.

Flavin joined Connacht in 2006 from London Irish, having played in the winning u-19 World Cup Ireland side in 1998 and the u-21 World Cup.

During his seven years with the province, the popular hooker has been an integral member of the squad, showing valuable leadership skills. However after 16 years in the professional game, the 33-years-old is happy to retire.

“ I'm proud that I've played with two fantastic clubs within that period and I am especially proud to have been involved with Connacht Rugby over the last number of years as the club has seen huge improvements. Galway has become a very special place for me, especially with my two sons Samuel and Joseph being born here.”

Coach Eric Elwood said Flavin had always conducted himself in a professional manner on and off the field.

"Here at Connacht Rugby, we always look to bring in good people who can add to our culture, have good values and contribute to our team. Over the last couple of seasons we have had our two best finishes in the Rabo PRO12 and it is through the hard work and commitment of people like Adrian that we have had that success

 

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