Club captain Jarrad Butler says Connacht need to respond to Saturday's 22-point hammering Glasgow dished out at the Sportsground when they head to Kingspan Stadium for Friday's postponed URC round eight game against Ulster.
“If we play like we did last week, we’ll be beaten up by a really good Ulster side,” Butler says of their heaviest home defeat of the season to the Scottish side. “It’s a massive challenge, exactly what we need to bounce back from last week and a couple of close games before that. We need to get back in the winner’s circle and Ulster is the perfect opposition for that.”
Butler admits there was a lot more physicality at Tuesday’s training session following the coaches’ review of their dismal showing against Glasgow.
“It was tough to watch, tough to be involved in, and tough having to review that. The coaches didn’t beat around the bush and neither did the playing group.
“It was good and it was warranted because we needed a good kick up the rear end. You don’t want to reflect too much on the previous week, but you have to, and we need to be better than that, or at least not put ourselves in that position again.
“If you do not acknowledge it, you are doing yourselves a massive disservice. If we play like that, we will be eaten by a really good Ulster side, so we need to have a reaction.”
The 29-year-old backrow player, who is now in his fifth season with Connacht, says there are no excuses when playing a team like Ulster in Belfast.
“You need to turn up and I think we will. We will get that reaction. It’s an interpro, it’s a really important game for us in the context of trying to put ourselves in a strong position on the URC table, so there are many reasons we need to perform. Regardless of the six-day turnaround or what happened previously, we need a big performance.”
Connacht are enjoying their best run of results against Ulster with three wins from four, but Dan McFarland’s team is currently on its own winning streak, having delivered wins over Northampton and Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup, followed by a 27-15 victory over Scarlets last weekend.
“They have been outstanding for the last few games, consistent, and playing good footy, but we have had some good results against them – think back to the Aviva where we were able to put them under pressure and assert ourselves. If we can do that again, we can get a good result this weekend.
“You look at that game and you can get belief from it – an understanding that when you get things right, you are able to produce performances like that. Since then, they have got better and better, and they are on a run of really strong performances, so they will have their tails up and a lot of energy, and they are allowed to.
“When you win that many, it becomes a habit. But in saying that, it is what creates an even bigger opportunity for us – to go up there and maybe knock them off in Kingspan – a nice way to get our season back on track.”
Connacht welcome the return of four players from injury this week, Tom Daly (knee), Conor Fitzgerald (illness), Peter Robb (shoulder) and John Porch (illness).
Out of action are Tom Farrell, who suffered a foot injury in last weekend's loss to Glasgow, Matthew Burke is ruled out until March with a knee injury from the Leicester Tigers clash, Jack Aungier has a rib injury, while prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy has a hamstring injury and will be out for a number of weeks.
Meanwhile, Gavin Thornbury is still aiming for a return in the next couple of weeks after a lengthy recovery from a shoulder injury, and hooker Dylan Tierney Martin is expected to return in April.