Connacht can seal a spot in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup this weekend by beating Worcester Warriors, but they will have to do it without lock James Cannon.
Cannon went off injured at half-time in Connacht’s inter-pro defeat to Munster last weekend and will be out for a few weeks due to a shoulder issue.
Cannon, Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane have shouldered the majority of Connacht’s second-row duties this season, and Dillane is likely to replace his injured colleague for the Sixways clash, while Roux looks to have avoided a citing for his yellow-carded tackle on Keith Earls at the weekend.
Connacht went into that Munster game without the rested Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell and Bundee Aki, but forwards coach Jimmy Duffy says they are all available to return for Saturday’s Pool 5 decider.
“It is not majorly serious, but James took a bang to the shoulder. We are just going to monitor him and look after him for the next couple of weeks. Fingers crossed he’ll be okay. This week, we’ll see how he is but we’re not sure about Oyonnax yet,” said Duffy. “Everyone that is not on that injury list is vying for selection and everyone is pushing hard. We have got some depth now and some bodies returning, which is good. It gives us some options.”
A big name on that absentee list is loosehead Denis Buckley, out with an ankle injury until February. Last weekend, Peter McCabe shone in the No 1 shirt and will challenge Denis Coulson for the starting position this weekend.
“Peter was here last year on a loan deal. We had the benefit of having a really close look at him. He did really well for us last year and has been improving in training and in games. It is good to have that level of competition there with Denis Coulson and Conan O’Donnell,” said Duffy. “It has been fairly attritional. I can’t remember the last time there was three inter-pros in a row, which are always big battles. That takes a toll, physically, on a squad, but if anything the injury list shrinks in that period. People want to be involved, they want to perform in the big games in front of big crowds. We have performed pretty well in Europe. It has given us a spark on a couple of occasion to kick on.”
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