Connacht know they’ve plenty to work on

AN improved set piece is essential if Connacht are to have any hopes of overcoming Gloucester on the second of the back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures and grab that elusive win.

Although they held the English premiership outfit to 14-11 last weekend at the Sportground, and gained their first Heineken Cup point, Elwood says Gloucester will be more difficult to beat at Kingsholm today (3.40pm)

“We know we are capable of mixing with this opposition, but they will be a different proposition at home, and that’s the challenge for us,” he says.

Elwood has made two changes to this starting line-up with Johnny O’Connor returning from a calf injury, and his return is a timely boost following Ray Ofisa’s knee injury last weekend, while Eoin Griffin has fully recovered from a hamstring injury and is named in the centre alongside Dave McSharry.

Connacht’s assistant coach Dan McFarland says the pack display in the set piece simply was not good enough last week and cost them the game.

“It was clear that one of the major reasons we lost the game was because our scrum did not function. Gloucester had five scrums from which they got four penalties and one free kick — that gave them a way into the game,” McFarland says. “And, probably for the first time, our line-out did not function. Three of the first four went awry and as a result we did not get a foothold in the game and that is not normal for us.”

Another disappointment, he said, was Connacht’s inability to defend Gloucester’s driving maul — a facet of Connacht’s play that has been one of its strengths all season.

“If our set piece was right, our scrum had functioned, and we had defended the driving maul, I have no doubt we would have won. These are issues that are solvable, although it will not be easy to turn things around away to Gloucester.

“Obviously we need a win, and with each win we don’t get, we have a little more pressure, but we believe in what we are doing.”

Gloucester’s head coach Bryan Redpath has made five changes to his starting line-up which sees the return of Mike Tindall in the centre, while Tim Taylor and Neil Runicman form a new halfback pairing. Redpath has opted for Dan Murphy, returning from injury and Rupert Harden in the two changes to the front row.

CONNACHT: G Duffy (cpt), M McCrea, E Griffin, D McSharry, T O’Halloran, N O’Connor F Murphy, B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney, G Naoupu, M McCarthy, D Gannon J O’Connor, J Muldoon.

Replacements: A Flavin, D Rogers, R Ah You, M Kearney, O McKeown, P O’Donohoe, M Jarvis, K Tonetti.

GLOUCESTER: O Morgan, C Sharples, M Tindall, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, J Simpson-Daniel, T Taylor N Runciman, D Murphy, S Lawson, R Harden, P Buxton, J Hamilton, B Deacon, A Hazell, L Narraway.

Replacements: M Cortese, N Wood, S Knight, W James, A Qera, R Lawson, F Burns, J May.

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