Connacht’s play-off drive in the PRO14 has been handed a big boost with the return of out-half Jack Carty to training in time for this weekend’s clash with Zebre following an arm injury.
However, Finlay Bealham misses the game in Parma with a lacerated hand. The in-form out-half forced his way into the Ireland Six Nations squad on the back of a series of excellent displays for the province, but was forced off during last weekend’s Challenge Cup loss to Sale Sharks.
Carty is in line to start against the Italians on Saturday and, with three games remaining in the PRO14, Connacht will hope to maintain their third-place position, which will guarantee them a play-off position.
“Jack is fine and trained fully on Tuesday,” said backs coach Nigel Carolan.
It was like a dead leg, just on his bicep. His power was down and we didn’t want him to take another bang and risk him for this weekend as well. He trained fully and he is good to go for the weekend.
“On the two occasions we played them last season, [Zebre head coach] Michael Bradley said we let them off the hook by not playing Jack.
“His tactical kicking game is one of the best around and he can really punish teams that defend with their wingers as high as Zebre play.
“When we didn’t play him last year, it was a relief for Michael and we hope not to make it as comfortable for him this weekend.”
Connacht are facing a possible issue at tighthead with the loss of Bealham, while back-up Dominic Robertson McCoy is suffering from back spasms. Bealham will undergo further scans today on his injured hand and according to Carolan he could be sidelined for the next two games.
“The initial assessment showed no internal or ligament damage. He is having a scan just to root around a little bit more and suss out what is the extent of the problem. It was quite an open wound and quite sore.
“He had 14 stitches across his hand; if you’d seen the image of it, it was pretty ugly. It was like a shark bite. They will root around a little more. Some of the consultants are worried that there may be some sort of internal damage. We’ll see what the extent of that is. He was never going to be in contention for this weekend, but he should be touch and go for selection the following week.
“We’re optimistic for Munster in three weeks’ time.”
Carolan also confirmed that Bundee Aki and Quinn Roux will not be available for this weekend’s clash, but that this week will complete their downtime as part of the player welfare programme, and the duo have a clear run for the remainder of the season.