Conor Oliver relishes return to Munster as Connacht seek crucial win

‘When these pressure situations come, I think we react very well,’ says flanker

Connacht's Conor Oliver tackles Munster's Jack O’Donoghue during the teams' clash at the Sportsground last September. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

Connacht are in must-win territoryas they aim to realise their top-eight ambitions, and one player keen to help get another W on the URC table is former Munster man Conor Oliver.

The abrasive backrow player, who says he has “found my feet” in the west, is revelling in his rekindled love for the game and the opportunity to square up to his former club at Thomond Park on Saturday.

It was not that he did not enjoy his time in Munster, but he accepts it as a “separate part” of his rugby career, which is flourishing at the Sportsground. Since moving west in 2020 he has made 82 appearances – three times as many as during his tenure with Munster – while also relishing his try-scoring tally of 10.

This weekend he hopes to get another chance to add to that number. Cian Prendergast is ruled out with a dislocated thumb, but New Zealander Shamus Hurley-Langton is also making his mark at the Sportsground.


“I think it is healthy competition. Maybe last year was not as competitive, we probably had the same backrow for nearly every game, but when it’s competitive, it brings the best out of people – it brings the best out of me as well,” he says Oliver.

His familiarity with many Munster players adds an extra edge to Saturday’s game.

“I still have friends there, and there are a few jokes made in a ruck on the ground, and there are a few others who I might not see eye to eye with too – it all adds to the occasion.

“It’s a fun game to play, and for anyone who has watched the Connacht v Munster games, they go down to the wire and are one of the most entertaining in my opinion.”

Tempers flare between Connacht and Munster during their meeting in September. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

However, there is added pressure on Connacht, currently in sixth place on the same number of points as both Ulster and Benetton. Munster sit pretty with 53 points in third, but will be eager to claim the top spot currently held by Glasgow Warriors on 58.

“Most games now are must-wins. We’ve been in this position before, and as a team when these pressure situations come, I think we react very well. There is always added pressure at this time of the season. I think every team endures it – look how tight the table is. We have to take it game by game, come back in on Monday and evaluate where we are sitting.”

Now firmly ensconced in Connacht, he believes he can treat Munster as “just another team”.

“Maybe previously, with other teams having come from Munster, it has been in my mind, but I have been here long enough. Now it is where this team wants to get to, and for me the hunger is to beat Munster, not because it’s Munster, but because they are standing in our way to get to a playoff or a trophy.

“That is where my mind is at the moment – it’s just another team in the way of getting to where this team deserves to get.”

However, it remains special to play in Thomond Park.

“It is not just another ground. Everyone knows how special the place is and how the supporters get behind their team.”

But he is happy that: “Connacht is my home now, it’s my team, and I love playing here. It is proving to myself and proving to my team how good I can be.”