Reluctant return of Ireland players boosts Connacht

Reluctant return of Ireland players boosts Connacht
Dave Heffernan

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.

At the minute, we have one. We have had David and Ultan up there with the camp. Both men and others have been exceptional throughout the course of the year, and hopefully that will translate into selection for them.

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.

Duncan and Duncan Rugby Podcast: Mike Sherry's dream career and injury nightmare. Hidden talent in the AIL

Reluctant return of Ireland players boosts Connacht

More on this topic

Hanrahan: Young guns keeping us on our toesHanrahan: Young guns keeping us on our toes

Cullen backs Sexton to prove worth as Ireland captain

Liam Williams makes early return to Scarlets from SaracensLiam Williams makes early return to Scarlets from Saracens

Former Munster scrum-half Alby Mathewson to join UlsterFormer Munster scrum-half Alby Mathewson to join Ulster

More in this Section

McCarthy makes changes ahead of Derry clash this SundayMcCarthy makes changes ahead of Derry clash this Sunday

Emile Heskey chased down street as child in racist incidentEmile Heskey chased down street as child in racist incident

Average Arsenal have little left to play for this seasonAverage Arsenal have little left to play for this season

Frustration grows for clubs as fixture gap loomsFrustration grows for clubs as fixture gap looms


Lifestyle

Prepare to fall for leather, whatever the weather, says Annmarie O'Connor.Trend of the week: It's always leather weather

The starting point for Michael West’s new play, in this joint production by Corn Exchange and the Abbey, is an alternative, though highly familiar, 1970s Ireland. You know, elections every few weeks, bad suits, wide ties, and a seedy nexus of politics and property development.Theatre Review: The Fall of the Second Republic at Abbey Theatre, Dublin

The Cork-led band played a superb gig in Dublin, writes Ed Power.REVIEW: The Murder Capital, Vicar Street

Lack of physical activity also causing disturbance of children’s sleep patterns.Under-fives suffering lack of sleep from extended screen time, doctor says

More From The Irish Examiner