Connacht suffer for success of Ireland six

Bundee Aki is among those named in the Ireland squad for the SIx Nations

It’s been a problem they hoped for years that they would have but now Connacht must deal with the loss of half a dozen players to the Irish squad in the Six Nations for the first time.

And, as luck would have it, they face into one of their most important fixtures of the season today in Cardiff against a Blues side who are vying closely with them in the battle for a Champions Cup spot next season.

A victory today for Connacht, who are five points above Cardiff, would be a huge boost as Andy Friend team’s try to get back to Europe’s top table after a three-year gap.

But the loss of six front-liners — Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane and uncapped Tom Farrell, Jack Carty and Caolin Blade — to Joe Schmidt’s squad is both a boost and a blow as they head to the Arms Park.

“We want as many guys getting international recognition as possible,” said attack coach Nigel Carolan.

And when those guys get that recognition, they’re taken from us for a period of time and it is up to us to manage that and other players to step in.

“It’s a problem we gladly welcome, if I put it that way. One of the factors that’s contributed to the success that we’ve had is very much the competition that we’ve had in the squad and our ability to rotate the squad.

“Young guys are getting the opportunity. We feel that when someone is away, we’ve built up good depth across a number of positions and we feel very comfortable that whoever plays they can slot into the game plan quite seamlessly,” added Carolan.

CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; O Lane, H Millard, R Lee-Lo, A Summerhill; S Shingler, L Williams; B Thyer, K Dacey, D Arhip; G Earle, R Thornton; S Lewis-Hughes, O Robinson, N Williams.

Replacements: L Belcher, R Carré, S Andrews, M Cook, J Botham, L Jones, D Fish, W Halaholo.

CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; C Kelleher, K Godwin, T Daly, M Healy; D Horwitz, J Mitchell; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; J Cannon, C Gallagher; E McKeon, C Fainga’a, J Butler.

Replacements: T McCartney, M Burke, D Robertson McCoy, J Maksymiw, P Boyle, A Lloyd, C Fitzgerald, S Fitzgerald.

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