Connacht are expecting Leinster to arrive at Galway Sportsground on Saturday with all guns blazing after last season’s defeat in the Pro14 championship.
That 47-10 loss did little to halt Leinster’s march to another Pro14 title, and Connacht are prepared for a testing Saturday evening.
“That was a big result,” says Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy, “but the reality is you have to work very hard against champions, and on Saturday we are playing the Pro 14 and European champions, an extremely serious outfit that demands the utmost respect, and we will prepare for a huge battle.
“Sometimes you can lose focus when you play teams like Leinster – they have massive quality, are in a good space, and they are playing quality rugby, so for us it is important to focus on ourselves, areas where we need to be better, and reward the stuff we have been good at.
“It is easy to take they eye off the ball, and the reason we have been competitive is because we have been focusing on what we are good at.”
Despite Leinster’s credentials and an expected full house of 8,100 fans on Saturday, Duffy says Connacht are treating it like any other match. “It’s an interprovincial at the end of the day, but it is also one of 30 games we play this season, and that is something we have to be focused on.”
Duffy says last Saturday’s 33-20 win over Scarlets has been a huge boost for Andy Friend’s burgeoning squad, helped by inspiring performances from Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion, and Jack Carty. The only down-side was the loss of lock Gavin Thornbury, who will be unavailable this week with a shoulder injury.
“We knew early in the season we had good young players. We have a young squad, but an ambitious one. We had a good pre-season, toured well, and started pretty well.
“We were close against Glasgow – nine points up and disappointed we didn’t close it out. But we have been building week-on-week, and last weekend showed us the potential that is in the group. The belief is starting to rise as well, and that is something we are keen to support and resource.”
Margin of victory
Last season’s victory for Connacht was memorable for the margin of victory, and captain John Muldoon kicking the last conversion to celebrate his final game with the province. Although Leinster’s Cian Healy has reignited the occasion this week, taking offence at Muldoon’s celebratory kick, Duffy says it had nothing to do with the opposition.
“I didn’t really pay attention to it, it was definitely something we didn’t plan on doing. It was one of those things that happened before we realised it was going to happen – look, it was definitely not a disrespectful moment, and that is important to point out.”
Jarrad Butler, who took a bang to his shoulder last Saturday, only took part in light training on Tuesday.