AFTER an opening day success at home, Connacht’s away form now gets its first test under Eric Elwood’s stewardship when they face the Scarlets at Parc Y Scarlets today (3pm).
The Connacht coach is hoping the “new mentality” of his squad will ensure there is no repeat of last years’s 58-10 loss at the Welsh venue.
“Our away form is well documented and that’s the challenge going forward, to become competitive away from home and give a good account ofourselves,” said Elwood.
“We have a massive challenge. With the record we’ve had over there, they would fancy themselves to win and win with five points. Conversely, we’re looking to improve our away form and that’s the way we’re going to approach it. There is a new mentality, and we’re going out to win this game, but we have to be competitive and in the game first of all. If we do that, then we would fancy our chances.”
Connacht, however, will have to do it without new signing Ezra Taylor, still awaiting results of his knee scan, having retired in Connacht’s 40-17 win over the Dragons. Mike McComish slots in at No 8 in the only change to the starting XV, while youngster Shane Conneely is called up to the senior squad as back-row cover in the absence of the injured John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, and Andrew Browne.
“Last week we had a problem in the front row, and now we have a dilemma in the back row. Andrew Browne is not yet up to speed with his injury and it is not something we want to rush,” said Elwood.
Centre Niva Ta’auso has been passed fit after pulling up in training earlier in the week with a hamstring injury. Frank Murphy continues to captain the side in the absence of Muldoon, partnering out-half Ian Keatley, whose 25 points last week overtook Paul Warwick’s record of 21 as the province’s highest points scorer in Magners League.
The Scarlets unexpectedly went down to newcomers Treviso last weekend, and coach Nigel Davies has brought back internationals Stephen Jones, Matthew Rees, who captains, and Sean Lamont for today’s fixture. Martin Roberts comes in at scrum-half while Rhys Thomas returns at tighthead prop, David Lyons having not passed fit.
“We want to show our supporters that we have progressed a lot from the last two seasons and our players are ready to front up,” said Davies. “The only way to actually do that is to win this game and win it well. One of our aims is to make Parc y Scarlets ours, and that starts on Saturday."