Connacht in a ‘good space’ as they prepare for Worcester
Jimmy Duffy hoping to build on Oyonnax against Worcester this weekend
Connacht’s John Muldoon during training on Tuesday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht are enjoying a “pretty good space” after their European five-try-winning performance over Oyonnax and an injury-free squad as they return to the Sportsground for the next round.
English side Worcester are the visitors and while they may be without Lions centre Ben Te'o due to an ankle sprain, Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy knows his side will have to be better again to maintain their Pool Five lead in the Challenge Cup.
“You know when you play Premiership sides they have a strong set-piece and are big, big men, and they like to impose themselves all over the field. They have a lot of experienced players, sprinkled with quality, so we are keenly aware of their potential.
“We expect Worcester to back themselves. Against Brive, they showed their professionalism. Both sides came to play, and it was a hard-fought battle.
“They have a have a lot of quality players, Ben Te’o, David Denton [both players may not feature due to injury], former Munster men Donncha O’Callaghan and Peter Stringer, people we know well, so there’s a lot of experienced players, sprinkled with quality. We are keenly aware of their potential.
“Donncha O’Callaghan is a huge character - he’s been around the game a long time, was voted player of the season. He has a huge amount of experience, leadership credentials, someone the lads are very familiar with, so we have huge respect for him.”
Connacht are hoping Saturday’s 43-15 victory in Geneva will be a springboard for more success, particularly with a return to the Sportsground for three consecutive fixtures.
“We are in the game of winning matches, and putting performances together, so the win was brilliant for morale,” he added. “People may have been looking for the bad news story, and there wasn’t one. We were training well and playing relatively well, but unfortunately we were not executing at crucial times in the game. So for us there was never a panic. We expect to do well, prepare to do well, and that is the mindset of what we are doing.
“At the minute we are starting to see the benefits of it, guys are clicking, combinations are working, and the injury list is quite favourable. All of these things help and build confidence. Winning in Geneva was great, but we were back this morning dissecting areas we need to be better again. It was a good place to be in at the wekend, but it’s back to business now.”
Although a full medical report was unavailable, Duffy says several players will be in contention to line out against Worcester, including the possible return of Tiernan O’Halloran from a hip injury, and players who were rested, prop Denis Buckley, outhalf Jack Carty, and Bundee Aki, whose playing time, along with Kieran Marmion, is being monitored due to possible international duty for the Autumn Internationals.
“Like everything else, we are in a pretty good space in terms of injury, apart from the couple of long term players which everyone knows about. Players are fit and keen to go, and hopefully the weather is behind us.
“It is great to be back at the Sportsground. We have three weeks now of home games, but we are keenly focused on Worcester first. We then have Munster and the Cheetahs, so three different games.”