On the one hand, Andy Friend is delighted that only Bundee Aki is missing on Six Nations duty as Connacht prepare for a real 10-pointer against a Cardiff Blues side who are just below them in the table.
But at the same time, he would be just as happy if more of his troops were unavailable because of Ireland matches, regardless of how important it is to get a win at the Sportsground (7.35pm).
Conancht are fourth in the table, a point ahead of this evening’s opponents, and were boosted this weekend by hooker Dave Heffernan and lock Ultan Dillane being released from Irish camp to play.
“Our desire is to have five players-plus in the Ireland matchday 23,” said Friend.
“That is what we said at the front-end of the year.
Connacht, having again failed to come out of their Heineken Champions Cup pool, have all their sights set on the PRO14 now, aiming to qualify for the knockout stages and also secure their place in Europe’s premier event.
“The message is simple,” said Friend.
“We have three games, win three out of three and we are in a healthy spot, win one or none, and we are in strife.”
The return of Dillane and Heffernan means that seven of the starting side have been capped by Ireland, and Friend needs that level of experience to count against a Cardiff side who have always been dogged and frustrating opponents for them.
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; J Porch, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; P McAllister, D Heffernan, F Bealham; U Dillane, G Thornbury; P Boyle, C Fainga’a, J Butler.
Replacements: S Delahunt, D Buckley, D Robertson-McCoy, J Maksymiw, E McKeon, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Daly.
CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish; J Harries, R Lee-Lo, G Smith, H Amos, J Tovey; L Williams; R Gill, L Belcher, D Arhip, F Paulo, J Ratti, J Turnbull, O Robinson, W Boyde.
Replacements: K Dacey, C Domachowski, S Andrews, S Davies, N Williams, L Jones, B Thomas, R Edwards.
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