Faletau and Coombs’ return boosts Dragons
Tualupe Faletau of Wales will be bound to make an impact when he comes on for the Dragons against Connacht at Rodney Parade tomorrow. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
It’s going to be very difficult to put money behind Connacht for the remainder of this season. Having admirably coped – on and off the field – with the loss of their chief executive officer at the dawn of this season it seemed like nothing worse could happen.
A new coach arrived with a collection of Southern Hemisphere players, with pedigree or the potential to improve an already spirited squad.
These men, New Zealand- born all, are either gone home or crocked. It’s been a disastrous run of luck for Connacht, first losing Samoan international James So’oialo to homesickness, then Craig Clarke (multiple head traumas) and Jake Heenan (shoulder surgery) to injury.
Even the clever recruitment of Conor Gilsenan, a highly-rated Leinster academy flanker, hasn’t paid off yet. The former Clongowes Wood schoolboy is also injured. Like fellow flanker Willie Faloon.
That means Eoin McKeon and Eoghan Masterson continue in an all-native backrow alwith Portumna’s John Muldoon.
Decent form before the Six Nations break saw Pat Lam’s charges climb to ninth in the Pro 12, a point adrift of tomorrow’s opposition, who lie seventh with a game in hand.
But there’s a gorge separating the bottom half from sixth- placed Scarlets.
The problem with facing the Dragons now is the return of Andrew Coombs and Toby Faletau, especially, from Wales duty. The latter is only among the replacements but his impact, at any stage, provides immediate forward momentum.
Connacht have no such player but they do have Robbie Henshaw. There are glimpses that show the Athlone 20-year-old can become the outside centre this island will crave the moment a Puma carves the Ireland midfield open this summer. If not Argentina, it will be the Springboks or Wallabies come November.
Henshaw has been given outside centre tutorials by Brian O’Driscoll since last November but on his return to Connacht, he is used at fullback.
And anyway, until the summer, Connacht have Eoin Griffin at their disposal.
So that’s how they line out tomorrow.
As ulam acknowledges, the Dragons are a strong outfit at Rodney Parade. “They’ve only been narrowly beaten by Leinster and Munster at home. If you look at all the games they play there, their line speed is faster, their contact is faster. The crowd are also a very passionate bunch which is another challenge for visitors.”
That’s what makes it hard to see past a home victory.
DRAGONS : D Evans; T Prydie, R Wardle, J Dixon, W Harries; J Tovey, R Rees; O Evans, H Gustafson, B Douglas; A Coombs (capt), R Sidoli; L Evans, N Cudd, N Talei. Replacements : E Dee, P Price, D Bell, M Screech, T Faletau, W Evans, A Smith, M Pewtner.
CONNACHT : R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Carr; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You; A Muldowney, M Kearney; J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson, E McKeon. Replacements : D Heffernan, R Loughney, N White, M Swift, A Browne, F Murphy, M Nikora, D Leader.
Referee: G Clancy (IRFU)
Verdict : Dragons win.