Connacht taking nothing for granted in advance of Oyonnax visit
Nigel Carolan calls for a ‘professional performance’ to final pool ties with a flourish
Nigel Carolan: “We are here to do some business and go about it in a professional way.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Expected to overcome Oyonnax with a bonus point, having registered a 43-15 win over the same opposition in Geneva in round one, Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan says there is a determination to finish with a flourish and produce a “professional performance”.
“Anytime Connacht have been a little bit complacent at the start we have suffered on the scoreboard,” says Carolan. “We are aware of the connotations, but if we go out there and believe we are going to be the Harlem Globetrotters, then I think we could be in for a tough day at the office.”
Connacht are currently ranked fourth in this season’s Challenge Cup with 21 points – behind Edinburgh, who with 24 points are ahead of Pau on points difference, and Newcastle with 23. Gloucester, also on 21 points and currently second in their group, have a superior points differential of 37 over Connacht. Much, then, will be decided by the Gloucester v Pau tie in England, while Newcastle head to Tblisi to face Russian side Enisei-STM, and Edinburgh face Stade Francais in Paris.
“We know Oyonnax are a physical outfit, they have serious players, and whatever side they send over, whether frontline or second, they are still registered players, and we have to deal with everything they throw at us.
“We have a good record at home and we are looking forward to playing in front of a noisy crowd and our guys get a real kick from it – the last game was Ulster and that ended positively, and before that Brive, which was a polished performance, and we expect that again on Saturday. Certainly we are going to go at it from the start, “ says Carolan.
“We want to finish this block of games on a real strong note so that we can prove to ourselves there is a level of consistency in the group. After the minor adversity last week when we had a poor start, and down to 13 players, it showed there is a real team character and fight in these players .
“They want to finish this block on a high and, while the result may not affect the quarter-final standings too much, it is important. But for ourselves we want to prove we have that level of consistency.
International players are available and are expected to feature, including Bundee Aki who suffered a quad haematoma against Worcester.
Prop Finlay Bealham is unavailable for a possible three weeks after it was confirmed he suffered a knee injury in training last week, while openside Jarrad Butler has fractured a bone in his hand and is ruled out for up to a month.
Thin in the backrow, Carolan says the break is timely with both Sean O’Brien and Eoin McKeon due back early next month.
“Our international players have been managed and so this week we have a full deck available. It is important we do not disrespect this game and put out a young side which could get involved in a tussle. We are here to do some business and go about it in a professional way.”