Connacht’s record against English clubs in the European Challenge Cup is fairly dismal but they have a great chance to start rectifying that this afternoon when they take on a Worcester Warriors side who are bottom of the Premiership.
Connacht have only managed to win eight of 32 games against English opposition in this tournament, but they will be boosted by the fact that they have won three of four jousts with Worcester.
And in the process Connacht will be hoping to win both opening games in the Challenge Cup for only the seventh time in 18 campaigns, having started with an impressive 43-15 win against French strugglers Oyonnax in Geneva last weekend.
That was only Connacht’s second win of the season but Worcester, who have opted to select skipper Donncha O’Callaghan on the bench, have been even poorer.
They have lost all six Premiership games and only secured their first win of the season last weekend when they scored a bonus point 30-20 win over a Brive side who are bottom of the Top 14.
But that win could ensure that Worcester come to the Sportsground today with a pep in their step and Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy has warned his men not to take anything for granted.
“A lot of the Premiership sides have a strong set-piece. They have big, big men and they like to impose themselves all over the field,” said Duffy.
“They have guys there that can challenge you, and they won the weekend which was a step up in terms of their intensity and execution levels.
“They will be champing at the bit to get here and have a cut at us but we are really looking forward to it as well.” Coach Kieran Keane has made eight changes to the starting 15 with No.8 Eoghan Masterson captaining the side in the absence of John Muldoon.
There are three changes in the backline with Irish international Tiernan O’Halloran returns at full-back instead of Cian Kelleher.
They are also boosted by the return of Bundee Aki, while out-half Jack Carty takes the place of last week’s man of the match, Australian recruit Andrew Deegan.
There are five further alterations up front for Connacht, including a new front row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Dominic Robertson-McCoy.
Behind them Quinn Roux starts instead of Ultan Dillane in the second row and in the back row James Connolly makes his first start of the season at openside flanker.
Duffy was delighted with the support his side received in Geneva last weekend but he thinks the home comforts of Galway and the Sportsground will aid Connacht in the coming weeks.
“It was brilliant, I couldn’t get over the amount of people who travelled over to Switzerland. It was a fantastic stadium and there was a huge amount of green in it,” said Duffy.
“But it’s great to be back home. We have got three weeks of home games in a row now so we are keenly focused on Worcester. And then we have got Munster and then Cheetahs the following week after.
“Three difficult games, three difficult oppositions. But great to be back in front of our home support.”
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