Connacht remain without eight players for URC clash with Cardiff

Mack Hansen remains sidelined with no update on shoulder injury

Connacht remain without eight players ahead of Saturday’s URC round 10 clash with Cardiff in Wales, including Mack Hansen, who remains sidelined with no new update on his shoulder injury and a possible return to play.

However, Paul Boyle (face), Cathal Forde (shoulder) and Sean O’Brien (foot) have recovered from injuries and are available for selection, while Connacht reports that Sean Jansen (shoulder) is also due to return to training today following an injury in the game against Lyon.

Out of action are Shane Jennings John Porch, Colm Reilly and Diarmuid Kilgallen, who are all targeting a return to play in early March against the Scarlets, while Oisin McCormack (thigh) and Dylan Tierney-Martin (neck) will be unavailable until mid/late March.

However, head coach Pete Wilkins has earmarked games against Cardiff and Scarlets for the return of some injured players to boost Connacht’s competitiveness.

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“Although this second half of the season is a little more broken up, we will need those reinforcements, particularly when we get towards the away game at Benetton, and Challenge Cup game at Pau,” he says, but believes his team is “tracking all right” at this juncture of the season.

“We are certainly not ahead of schedule, but are probably about one bonus point behind where I would like us to be ideally. With the nature of the draw – seven of our games were against top-half teams in the first half the season – so I think we have done really well in patches, particularly in the first quarter of the season.

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“I feel like we have a bit of an even ledger, but I am optimistic about the rest of the season. For that to materialise we have to win games in this second half of the season, so we have to pick up points against those teams that are around us, and Cardiff is obviously one of them.”

As a result he believes it could be defining for Connacht’s season.

“You can earmark this as a game that if we are serious about getting into that top eight spot, then these are the games we should be winning. But, at the same time it is a massive challenge, particularly away from home.

“I always feel Cardiff and Connacht are fighting for a similar position on the ladder at the end of the season, always pushing hard to get into that top eight, and as a result the games against each other tend to have a big sway on how each others season turns out.

“They are a few points behind us at the minute, but they have been picking up bonus points consistently this season. They have a really aggressive defence which will challenge us – in terms of our skills under pressure of the line-speed they bring, but also our decision making about when to run and when to kick, particularly away from home – so it will be an interesting battle – our attack against their defence.”

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