Andy Friend doesn’t see opening for Leinster outhalf Harry Byrne at Connacht
Jack Carty and Conor Fitzgerald are expected to re-sign with the province
Jack Carty has returned to top form with Connacht this season. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Friend says Connacht already has “good quality” No 10s, saying: “I don’t see an opening here,” following suggestions the Leinster man should go west for game time.
Although Jack Carty and Conor Fitzgerald are among a number of players out of contract at the end of the season, both are expected to re-sign with Connacht.
Carty, whose form suffered after Ireland’s exit from the World Cup, has recovered this season, exemplified by his record 25-point haul in Connacht’s win over Leinster at the RDS. And Friend believes Carty is now a better player since his exploits in Japan.
“One hundred per cent, he has grown since the World Cup,” says Friend. “I know from the work he has put in – the experience Jack has gained from the World Cup, from the disappointment he had coming back, and further disappointment from not being selected, and having to work his way back in.
“When he came back from the World Cup, Conor Fitzgerald was in ahead of him and Jack was not in form, but he has worked [his way] back now.
“The Jack Carty you see today and you see on Saturday is definitely a better version of the Jack that went to the World Cup, and long may that continue.”
Friend says Saturday’s upcoming Pro 14 fixture against Cardiff at the Sportsground is another platform for Carty to show his quality for Irish selection.
“You just want another opportunity to go and play, first and foremost to prove to yourself that you are a quality rugby player, and secondly, you want to show the world what you can do. So it’s a great opportunity for Dave Heffernan, Ultan Dillane, Bundee Aki, Jack Carty, and a whole array of other players who I think are really quality footballers.”
Friend says the key for these players is to stick to the Connacht game plan in Saturday’s crunch Pro 14 fixture. Connacht’s woeful home form this season again will be tested by visitors Cardiff who sit in third place and six points behind Friend’s squad.
“The most important thing is that we don’t want 15 individuals going out there trying to show something,” says Friend. “We have a game plan, a game structure, so ‘stick to it, trust the fact that you are good footballers, that your skills will shine through’. I know they great footballers. I want them to be able to show that and the best way to show that is to stick to the game plan.”
Connacht will be missing Ireland international Quinn Roux who is to undergo surgery for an ongoing shoulder issue, ruling him out until May, while centre Peter Robb is also having surgery this week for an abdomen injury he suffered against the the Dragons.
Seán O’Brien is unlikely to feature following a neck injury in the Eagles game against Munster. Also ruled out are Ben O’Donnell (chest), Sam Arnold (chest), Tom Farrell (knee), Stephen Fitzgerald (knee), and Cillian Gallagher (shoulder) who continue their rehabilitation.