Andy Friend has knocked down a few barriers since arriving in Galway 15 months ago, and this evening (kick-off 7.35pm) hopes to win in Wales for the first time since he took charge of Connacht.
Their 18-10 loss away to Scarlets on the opening weekend of the PRO14 campaign a couple of weeks ago was the third time he has returned from Wales defeated after last season’s losses away to Ospreys and Cardiff. Now a Dragons side, hammered 39-9 on the opening weekend by Munster but who ended a 45-match winless away run when they triumphed in Italy against Zebre, stand in their way.
Friend has handed fellow Australian John Porch his first start for the province, in the only change to the starting 15 following a superb 41-5 win over Benetton at the Sportsground last Saturday evening.
Winger Porch had previously worked with Friend with the Australian Sevens and played his first competitive game for Connacht as a replacement for Stephen Fitzgerald shortly after the hour-mark against the Italians.
“When you get a performance like that from the team you want to reward them, and especially with the six-day turnaround you want to allow that momentum to keep going,” said Friend.
He is looking for a strong start from his charges as the province looks for its first win in Wales since defeating Cardiff in February 2017.
“We allowed two scores against us against Scarlets and we nearly clawed that back,” he said.
“We can’t let them get ahead. The Welsh teams get ahead and it becomes an even more difficult place to play. The start is really, really important for us. Fair play to Dragons, they have done well to get that win last weekend.
But this is a new week, a new opportunity for them and a new opportunity for us.
“Who turns up and the start is going to be so important. Who wins those little battles in there and who gets on top will be crucial. That is going to be a big focus for us.
“I have been really impressed with Dragons, especially the change in their game style from last year to this year. They are playing a more expansive game with a lot of movement of the ball from sideline to sideline.
“They have got some quality players in there and they are looking to allow them to have the opportunity to play,” added Friend.
J Williams; O Jenkins, T Morgan, A Warren, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams; B Harris, R Hibbard, L Brown; J Davies, M Screech; H Taylor, T Basham, L Evans.
E Shipp, R Bevington, L Fairbrother, M Williams, H Keddie, T Knoyle, J Botica, J Dixon.
T O’Halloran; J Porch, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux; E Masterson, J Butler, P Boyle.
S Delahunt, D Buckley, D Robertson-McCoy, U Dillane, C Gallagher, K Marmion, T Farrell, S Fitzgerald.