Connacht hunting winning feeling

WITH Connacht’s European hopes all but over for this season, coach Eric Elwood is looking for a much-needed victory to restore some confidence in his side.

Without a competitive win since their 16-13 win over Bayonne in October, Connacht will be hoping to repeat that success at the Galway Sportsground tonight (7pm) when they host pool leaders Harlequins in the second of back-to-back fixtures.

Elwood says his team did more than enough to win in last Sunday’s pool one clash with the Londoners despite losing 20-9 at the Twickenham Stoop.

“We know we are capable of beating Harlequins. The last day out, we asked enough questions of them, we stopped them playing their game, and we played well in attack. We will continue to play like that again,” he says.

However Elwood believes there is more at stake for his players, particularly as they head into a crucial Christmas period with the traditional interprovincial clashes against Munster and Leinster.

“We need a win,” says Elwood. “It’s as simple as that. We are working extremely hard and we need to get a win to give us the confidence heading into Christmas period.

“The frustrating part is that we have to work so hard to create our opportunities and get our scores and then Harlequins got two soft tries. Hopefully we’ll turn the corner sooner rather than later.”

Despite injury concerns to Gavin Duffy and Ian Keatley, both have been named in tonight’s starting XV which shows two changes. Prop Brett Wilkinson has been ruled out with a shoulder injury and is replaced by Ronan Loughney, while Darragh Fanning takes over from Brian Tuohy on the wing.

Harlequins make the trip knowing Connacht tested them on Sunday, but if the home side can secure the same amount of ball they won last weekend, avoid a couple of defensive mistakes that proved costly, and compose themselves a little better in attack, Elwood says Connacht are capable of overcoming the Londoners.

“We had an abundance of ball to cause them problems,” says Elwood. “We had line breaks and offloads and so on and so on, but we just didn’t have that killer punch to finish things off.”

Conor O’Shea has been able to strengthen his side for the visit to Connacht, with scrum-half Danny Care cleared to partner Nick Evans in the pivotal half-back position, while Nick Easter also returns to a strong back row which boasts last week’s man of the match, Tom Guest, and captain Chris Robshaw.

Ceri Jones is named in the front row, while Ollie Kohn will partner Pete Brown in the second row.

The fifth change sees Jordan Turner-Hall returning to the centre.

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