Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy admits they face an uphill battle if they are to reach the PRO14 final but has promised they will not give up without a fight as they prepare to face a Munster side who have a nine-point advantage on them at the top of the table with three games left.
Connacht can keep the battle alive with a win at Thomond Park on Friday night, but despite winning a fifth away game on the bounce in Italy last weekend, history suggests this will be a tough test.
I think the numbers don’t lie. For us, we just prepare as well as we can to get the result and we’ll see where we are after the game,” said forwards’ coach Duffy.
“Munster are in the driving seat, they’ve got the nine points ahead of us. So we’re under no illusions, we just want to go and put in our best performance and see where we are at the end of it.”
Connacht’s only win of the professional era at Thomond Park came in their title winning season of 2016, while their last competitive win against Johann van Graan’s side was back in October 2017 at the Sportsground, which ended up in a 20-16 victory against the visitors who were reduced to 14 men for the final quarter after Andrew Conway was red-carded.
Any sort of win will be enough to send Munster into the final against either Leinster or Ulster, and Duffy says his side will bring an intensity and momentum into the fixture.
“We’ve been good at playing a high-tempo brand of rugby and keeping the ball alive. We can amplify and turn it up, when we’re efficient we’ll score some tries. You have to be clinical when you play top sides. If you play anyone in that top three in the table, you have to maximise your opportunity when you’ve a chance to accumulate points.”
With an away victory over Leinster in the bag already this season, Connacht will have little fear of making the journey to Limerick.
However, as forwards’ coach Duffy knows the threat that the Munster pack possess. And, Duffy, himself a former lock, singled out Billy Holland as a key architect of their set-piece success.
“Is it 14 seasons he’s been involved with Munster? He’s always someone you have to prepare massively for.
“He’s an exceptional forward and he’s been a phenomenal player for them over the years.
“He knows his stuff, he knows it inside out, he gets the best out of himself and those around him.
“We’ve massive respect for him and as a coach I’ve massive respect for him when he’s on the park. I think he brings another dimension to the game, he’s very knowledgeable around that set-piece and he’s a major glue factor for them.”