After their most successful start to the season, Connacht return to the Galway Sportsground on Saturday (7.30pm ) to face Ulster in the first interprovincial of the season. Traditionally Connacht’s closest rivals for Ireland’s third Heineken Cup place, Ulster come west after three wins on the trot and having spent big over the summer in recruitment. Yet coach Eric Elwood believes his side is “in the right frame of mind for this game. The lads know how important the derby matches are, but we are in a different position than in the past and hopefully we can take that confidence forward to Saturday. We would always fancy our chances at home and hopefully history will change itself on Saturday.”
However Elwood also believes Connacht supporters should not underestimate their value.“You just need to talk to the boys. The noise that can be generated, even with 2,000 people, lifts the squad. We know from going to other clubs how intimidating the crowds can be and how they can influence the touch judge, the assistant referee, and even the ref. In tight ball games they make the difference - they can swing a decision and lift the players.” Saturday’s head-to-head with Ulster could be hugely significant and Elwood says he cannot repeat often enough the importance of strong local support. We have been saying for two or three years that we have to show ambition. We want people to come in and support the team. We have a slogan ‘Your province, your team’ and yes, it is OK going to Dublin to march on the IRFU, but listen - just come down and support the team- that’s the best way to support us. All I can do is plead with people to come down, bring a friend, two, three or five friends. Everyone is trying hard here. The branch is fundraising and hosting events, the players are doing their bit, our facilities are constantly improving, the pitch is immaculate, but we have to push the boat out a little more and show real ambition if we want a professional team in Connacht.” Elwood expects to have the same squad that travelled to Glasgow last weekend and won its first away match in two seasons. There are concerns with try-scoring ace Fionn Carr, Gavin Duffy, and Tiernan O’Halloran, and although Darragh Fanning and Aidan Wynne have been included in the extended squad of 26, Elwood is hopeful they will recover fully.