Connacht expect backlash from highly motivated Perpignan
‘Perpignan are still searching for a win, and with their local hero unfortunately losing his life last week, it’s a big occasion for them’
Connacht’s Darragh Leader after scoring a try against Perpignan at the Sportsground. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Without a Top 14 or European win this season, the Catalan club is also reeling from the recent death of former legend South Africa Barend Britz, who died after an assault outside his pub. As a result Connacht’s forward coach Jimmy Duffy says it is a massive occasion for both teams.
“It’s a huge game for us, and we are going to pick a team we believe can go over there and win. Perpignan are obviously still searching for a win, and with their local hero unfortunately losing his life last week, it’s a big occasion for them.
“It would have been his birthday this weekend, he would have been 64, so it’s another tough thing for the club to take. They have a long history, but we are picking a team to win.”
Connacht are sitting in second place on eight points in the European Challenge Cup’s pool three after their hard-fought 22-10 win in atrocious weather last weekend at the Sportsground in the first of these back-to-back games. However, only a win will keep hopes of a quarter-final alive.
“Sale are in the driving seat, so we can’t be looking left or right. We are definitely focused on identifying a game plan to knock Perpignan, while also selecting a side that can do the business, and then get ourselves home for a big Christmas.
“This is a massive opportunity to try to keep the momentum going. Last weekend was another test because it forced us to play a different style of game than we had played all year by keeping it tighter. I think both teams struggled with the elements, but it was a good learning, and it forced both sides to completely alter the game plan. With the rain bouncing off the floor, it was really tough.”
In looking for a fifth win on the trot, Connacht expect conditions to be more conducive to expansive rugby, with both sides looking to capitalise.
“Both teams did admirably well to hold to the ball last weekend, but for us it was about holding on to the last pass. We created opportunities, but maybe forced it in contact, but we would expect the conditions this weekend to be considerably better.”
Connacht expect to make several changes for Friday’s fixture. Although without Ireland centre Bundee Aki, who has returned to New Zealand for his wedding, key players who were rested after the double in South Africa are expected to return to action.