Carty and Aki to miss Connacht’s Pro14 game against Ospreys
Ireland duo not released by Joe Schmidt as Sean O’Brien is ruled out for season
While Ultan Dillane (left) has returned to Connacht, Jack Carty will not play against Ospreys in the Pro14. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Connacht will be without Ireland debutant Jack Carty and onfield leader Bundee Aki for their crunch Guinness Pro14 game against the visiting Ospreys on Saturday.
The Connacht outhalf, who came off the bench in the last five minutes of Saturday’s Six Nations win over Italy, and Aki, have not been released back to the club by Joe Schmidt.
However, both starting locks, Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux, centre Tom Farrell and scrumhalf Caolan Blade are available to Andy Friend for this key Conference A fixture at the Galway Sportsground.
Friend says Carty’s late introduction for his Ireland cap has been “warmly received” in Connacht.
“It’s brilliant, it just brings a buzz to the west of Ireland. I felt it was a really warmly received accolade for a player who has been chipping away at his trade for so so long, and this year has been producing stellar performances and getting the reward for it.
“Bundee is always wanting to get back [to Connacht], but he took a bit of a head knock and has the HIA to get through,” says Friend. “He’s a vital man for Ireland and given that injury, they will be looking after him.”
In addition, Connacht have also lost key backrower Sean O’Brien for the rest of the season. O’Brien had just returned to training from an injury to his shoulder, which now requires surgery.
It is a real setback for the 24-years-old who missed much of last season having undergone a shoulder operation after an injury in the second game of the Pro14 season against the Southern Kings.
“A big loss,” says Friend. “He’s been great when we have been able to get him on the park – a bigger body, very aggressive, and a very dominant performer in pretty much everything he does. So it’s a big loss and disappointing for him, but it’s important now he gets that shoulder right. So we must cut our losses now, and get him right for next year.”
The former Ireland U-20 player is currently waiting on an appointment for surgery in England, with the hopes of returning for the start of next season.
Still unavailable this week are prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy with an ankle strain, and lock Gavin Thornbury, who is expected to return after the two-week break, while Robin Copeland has returned to full training.
Saturday’s visit of the Ospreys, just three points behind Connacht in Conference A, is another must-win for the home side. And, with the away losses to the Welsh outfit earlier in the season, and Glasgow last weekend, Friend says Connacht need to up their game mentally.
“Whether it is an away game mentality, I’m not sure yet, but again we mentally didn’t turn up. On Saturday we definitely know what is coming – they are the number one kicking team in the competition, a strong team who like to flood the tackle and slow the ball down, so we have to be patient with our game, we have to be smart, our ball carries have to be dominant, and the speed of support has to be good,” he says.
“We have said to the players, we don’t need to know about points. We are down to that stage of the season where we have to win, all are must-win games if we are going forward.”