McFarland: We have to take our chances

CONNACHT go into this evening’s final Heineken Cup pool match knowing it could be their last in the competition for some time.

With two losing bonus points to date, they crave victory but it will not be easy against the current English Premiership leaders.

Harlequins arrive knowing they must bag the win and a bonus point to seal a runners-up spot into the quarter-finals if pool leaders Toulouse sign off with a victory in Gloucester.

However should Connacht deny Harlequins, Ulster, currently with 19 points, would have enough points to qualify for the quarter-finals.

“For the next 18 months we may not see a Heineken Cup match in Galway,” said Connacht assistant coach Dan McFarland, “and we want to win one.

“So we are coming home against Harlequins who we pushed very close over there and played some lovely rugby, and we now get to play in front of our own fans here. There is an excitement about playing this evening.”

But that alone will not be enough. In addition to a 100% commitment, they need to convert all opportunities created.

“We cannot afford to look gift horses in the mouth, so if the opportunities are given to us, we have to take them,” said McFarland.

“We are looking for the same kind of intensity in our play, the same kind of passion, and hopefully convert any chances — that will certainly put us close to getting a result.”

Eric Elwood welcomes the return of prop Ronan Loughney, who has been named in the Wolfhounds squad, along with Connacht’s Gavin Duffy, Brett Wilkinson, Mike McCarthy and John Muldoon.

Harlequins, however, come with considerable pace out wide and former All Black Nick Evans directing operations behind the scrum.

Connacht: G Duffy [capt], F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, D McSharry, T O’Halloran, N O’Connor, P O’Donohoe; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu.

Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, D Rogers, M Kearney, E McKeon, D Moore, M Nikora, H Fa’afili.

Harlequins: M Brown; U Monye, M Hopper, J Turner-Hall, S Smith; N Evans, D Care; J Marler, C Brooker, J Johnston, T Vallejos, G Robson, M Faasavalu, C Robshaw [capt], N Easter.

Replacements: J Gray, M Lambert, T Fairbrother, O Kohn, L Wallace, R Bolt, R Clegg, T Casson.

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