Connacht defence coach Pete Wilkins believes the province can keep their PRO14 season alive with a second away win of the competition against Ospreys this weekend.
Connacht were knocked out of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals by Gloucester at the Sportsground last Saturday, and that 33-28 defeat means Kieran Keane’s side are almost out of touch in the race for the final Champions Cup place for next season.
The 2015-16 league champions are second from bottom in PRO14 Conference A but Wilkins believes a surprise victory at Liberty Stadium is possible. A win would see the westerners climb above Ospreys in Conference A and rekindle hopes of making the European play-off.
“We have been blunt with each other. The positive thing about this group of players is that they are very honest. It’s been a positive talk but with the realism that we let ourselves down,” said Wilkins.
“It really would show the character of the side to go and win at Ospreys now. And it wouldn’t surprise me.
“If there is a group of players determined to go away and get results against the odds, then it’s this group. We have got every faith.
“There is disappointment from the weekend. We keep our season alive by winning this week. It’s last-chance saloon for us but there is a seventh Champions Cup place up for grabs.”
Tighthead prop JP Cooney is the latest Connacht player to announce his departure from the province before next season as coach Keane puts the finishing touches on his 2018-19 squad. But there are still incoming players to be announced and Wilkins says versatile out-half David Horwitz will be a quality addition when he is arrives after the Super Rugby season.
“He is contracted to the Rebels at this point and we look forward to seeing him this season when Melbourne are done,” said Wilkins. “He has been a bit unfortunate because he played every game but one for the Waratahs the previous year and had Australian out-half Bernard Foley ahead of him, so he was mainly filling in at 12 as a second playmaker.”
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