Connacht look to land blow on rivals

Paul O'Donohoe in action against the Ospreys in last weekend’s defeat in the Celtic League. Photo: Sportsfile.

Paul O'Donohoe in action against the Ospreys in last weekend’s defeat in the Celtic League. Photo: Sportsfile.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood continues to sweat on the availability of some key players for the first interprovincial of this season’s RaboDirect Pro 12. Elwood is delaying naming his starting XV for Saturday’s clash with Leinster at the RDS (5pm ) to allow players as much time as possible to recover. Key players include captain Gavin Duffy (calf ), winger Tiernan O’Halloran (hamstring ), and Eoin Griffin (hamstring ). Also carrying injuries, but expected to recover are Frank Murphy (groin ), Henry Fa’afili (hip ), TJ Anderson (ribs ) and Brian Tuohy. James Loxton, who came on as a replacement in his first Pro 12 game last weekend, is ruled out with a medial strain, joining Keith Matthews, Miah Nikora, and Andrew Browne and George Naoupu

On the plus side Mark McCrea has also returned to training following an ankle injury and should be available, while Elwood also has the option of using Matthew Jarvis who came on as a replacement against the Ospreys for the injured Loxton. As a result training has been limited this week and Elwood is considering bringing in players from Nigel Carolan’s interprovincial championship winning u20s.

“We are trying to mind players during the week - it’s tough because they are in key positions and right now we have no other backs standing. If the injuries do not clear up, I have no issue going down to the u-20s. We will have to see in which position we are short, but in the meantime it’s a waiting game,” Elwood says.

The fresh injury crisis comes at a time Connacht are playing with confidence and composure, having grabbed a bonus point away to league leaders Ospreys last weekend. Now they face a Leinster side that is currently equal on points in the league table, and their coach Joe Schmidt says the loser of this local derby will drop out of the top four. However Elwood knows this is a great opportunity to grab a win over the European champions. “It would be naive to think Leinster will not have done their homework on us, and they will not take any chances. However it is an opportunity for us. It will be tough battle, but it has the makings of a good game. We feel that if we play our brand of rugby and take more chances, then we have a good chance to win.” Elwood is once again concentrating on the breakdown area where TJ Anderson, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor and Ray Ofisa have performed well in the last six weeks,. “If we want to put our mark on the game, then we have to play well in that area,” he says.

Despite losing to the Ospreys last weekend, Elwood believes it was Connacht’s best performance of the season.

“We were apprehensive going there knowing it was going to be difficult because they were top of the table, but we had a good chat with ourselves to make sure our individual and collective attitude was right and it was probably the best performance of the year to date, We did not get the four points, but it was a good performance, we got some good scores, played good rugby and asked questions of them. We played at a great intensity and tempo and it is up to us to keep that intensity against Leinster and hopefully create the opportunities which will be converted.”


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