By John O’Sullivan
Head coach Andy Pal insists that Connacht can end their season on a optimistic notice, regardless of final weekend’s slender defeat to Munster that means the Westerners can’t win home silverware this time period.
After the 20-17 reversal at Thomond Park, Connacht now sit 12 factors behind their Southern rivals in Convention B within the PRO14, which — with two video games remaining — is an unassailable lead.
Nonetheless, with the Westerners drawn away to Leicester Tigers within the final 16 of the Problem Cup and the remaining PRO14 fixtures offering the chance to nail down second place, Pal believes that the Sportsground crew can nonetheless have a profitable season, beginning with Edinburgh at dwelling on Saturday evening.
“I feel it’s an excellent alternative for us,” The Australian mentioned of Connacht’s prospects within the Problem Cup, which is able to restart on the weekend of April the second, third or fourth.
“We began out, on the entrance finish of the yr, in The Champions Cup and because the method the yr has fallen we’ve moved again into the Problem Cup. We additionally now know we gained’t be competing for silverware on this preliminary interval of the PRO14.
“Silverware and podium finishes is the place we wish to be, particularly this Problem Cup as an actual alternative for us to go and win one thing. Now we have really damaged just a few information this yr — some good, some not so good — dwelling losses and away wins. If we broke one other one and that’s cracking a win in England; implausible, I’d be all for that.”
Connacht defeated Edinburgh 37-26 within the reverse fixture in October and Pal insists that the conflict with the Scots is a match that the Westerners will look to win. However the recreation may also see the Sportsground crew rotate gamers who’ve seen much less recreation time lately given the chance to begin.
“We’re definitely going to be choosing a crew that we wish to win on this contest, however I feel it’s a actually good alternative for us to supply a platform to sure people. That’s not taking something away nor disrespecting Edinburgh in any respect,” the previous Australian sevens coach mentioned.
“We’ll wait to see what that aspect is after we put it on the market, however I see these final two video games as being a extremely good likelihood in a yr the place we haven’t had a whole lot of rugby for sure individuals to offer individuals some recreation time and hopefully we will see a very good efficiency from them as they’ve been ready for a possibility to ship.”
In the meantime, prop Denis Buckley says that Edinburgh will present a stern take a look at for the Connacht pack they usually must be at their bodily greatest to defeat the Scotsmen.
The Roscommon native additionally highlighted the set-piece as an space the place the Scots — who’re coached by former England worldwide hooker Richard Cockerill — are significantly robust and the Westerners, he says, must come out on prime of that battle with a purpose to win.
“I do know it’s a little bit of a cliche to say round rugby video games, however they’re a fairly, direct bodily crew, so to match that can be very important. It begins with the forwards.
“They’ve a very good set-piece they usually play a forward-oriented recreation. Now we have to satisfy hearth with hearth there and attempt to get on prime in that a part of the sport will give us a fairly good basis to get a victory”.
Reacting to Connacht’s Problem Cup draw away to Leicester Tigers, Buckley acknowledged the dimensions of the problem in dealing with the Tigers, certainly one of European Rugby’s most storied golf equipment.
Nonetheless, the loose-head believes that the Westerners can win the competitors, particularly with their robust away kind this season. Ought to the Sportsground males progress they’ll face both Newcastle Falcons or Ospreys at dwelling within the quarter-final.
“They’re clearly a extremely good aspect. It might have been good to have a house draw, however that is the cardboard we now have been dealt. Look, we now have two massive video games within the league first and we wish to tie down that second place.
“However then, it’s a extremely thrilling recreation to begin constructing in direction of. Our away kind has been actually good this yr and there’s no cause why we shouldn’t be trying to win that competitors. It’ll begin with a very good efficiency towards them, hopefully.”