Connacht determined to make Montpellier clash count for something
With no hope of qualifying for knockout stages, this will be about performance and pride
Connacht head coach Andy Friend: ‘We have picked a strong side and are aiming to win the game and regain some momentum ahead of an important block of games coming in the Pro14.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Montpellier v Connacht, GGL Stadium, Sunday, 3.15pm - Live on BT Sport 3
A game of little relevance for both outfits unable to qualify for the quarter-finals, Sunday afternoon’s fixture at GGL Stadium is about performance and pride for Connacht.
Few would argue it has been a tough and difficult period for Andy Friend’s side, having fallen to all fellow provinces and the French champions, while being limited by injuries. However, now it’s about concentrating on the Pro14 in order to qualify for the European competition again next season, and although this game has no direct impact on that ambition, Friend wants to ensure his side gets back to winning ways quickly.
“It’s another opportunity to keep building Connacht’s game to get the performance we are looking for,” he says. “We have picked a strong side and are aiming to win the game and regain some momentum ahead of an important block of games coming in the Pro14.”
Although Connacht posted an opening-day win over Montpellier at the Sportsground, the return leg will be a huge challenge, he says.
“We are delighted to see Kieran Marmion back from injury. He has been out since November and has worked really hard to get back on the field. His experience alongside Jack Carty will be a boost to us on Sunday.”
In addition to the halfback pairing, Friend has included fellow international Bundee Aki and Kyle Godwin in midfield, with the experienced Matt Healy and Aussie John Porch on the wings. In the pack there are few surprises. Dave Heffernan, named in Andy Farrell’s new squad, will get more playing time under his belt in the front row, alongside Paddy McAllister and Dominic Robertson-McCoy. With Quinn Roux still sidelined with injury, and Ultan Dillane – also named in Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad – having taken a hip knock against Toulouse, Gavin Thornbury will be joined by talented youngster Joe Maksymiw in the second row. Jarrad Butler captains the side at number eight, with Eoghan Masterson returning alongside Colby Faianga’a.
Montpellier, also preparing for a crunch Top 14 clash with La Rochelle, have named a side with eight internationals, including four South Africans.
MONTPELLIER: J Goosen; G N’gandebe, A Vincent, J Serfontein, Y Reilhac; H Pollard, B Paillaugue; U Tcheisvhili, B Du Plessis, L Chilachava; N Janse van Rensburg, P Willemse; K Galletier (capt), Y Camara, J Du Plessis.
Replacements: V Giudicelli, M Nariashvili, M Haouas, F Ouedraogo, K Fotuali’i, A Bouthier, T Darmon, K Mikautadze.
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; J Porch, K Godwin, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; P McAllister, D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy; J Maksymiw, G Thornbury; E Masterson, C Faianga’a, J Butler (capt).
Replacements: J Murphy, D Buckley, C Kenny, N Murray, E McKeon, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Daly.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England).