Connacht braced for backlash from Jackman’s Dragons

Backs coach Nigel Carolan says visitors face a difficult assignment at Rodney Parade

Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan: “Historically Connacht never had it easy at Rodney Parade and we can’t hide from that fact.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan: “Historically Connacht never had it easy at Rodney Parade and we can’t hide from that fact.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Connacht are preparing for “nothing short of a backlash” from Bernard Jackman’s Dragons when the two sides meet in Rodney Parade on Friday night.

In their first away fixture of this season’s Guinness Pro 14, Connacht will face a Dragons side hurting from two defeats on the bounce and backs coach Nigel Carolan is expecting a difficult assignment against his former Connacht teammate’s new Welsh charges.

“Jackman is trying to rebuild the Dragons and create a strong identity,” says Carolan who played alongside the former Clontarf man under Warren Gatland. “They will be a tight-knit group, much like he did in Grenoble, and they were difficult to play against.

“He is trying to play an expansive game, and they have some real firepower with Ashton Hewitt and and Zane Kircher, and the old boot of Gavin Henson who can kick them into positions.”

Although Glasgow finished comfortably with a 47-17 win at Scotstoun last weekend , it was “only late in the game when the Scots pulled away”.

“It is going to be a very difficult game for us and we have to make sure we build on last week and are more effective than we were,” said Carolan.

Dragons and the Southern Kings are propping up Conference B, the only two teams without a championship point, while Connacht are currently third in Conference A behind leaders Munster and the Warriors. However Connacht lost 21-16 last November in Rodney Parade, with Hewitt bagging two tries, and Carolan says their forwards are just as effective.

Easy platform

“Historically Connacht never had it easy at Rodney Parade and we can’t hide from that fact. Coupled with the new broom in their coaching team – and they are very much energised by that – they are home again and they will be looking to us to pick us off again.

“They have a very effective lineout defence, and they will not give us an easy platform. If their team gets on top, it is a difficult place to claw back from, so we have to make sure we get a strong foothold in the game early and hopefully silence the crowd as early as we can.

“We need to up the standard of last week. While we got the bonus point, we probably made it a little hard for ourselves, so we need to ensure we iron out those crevices this week.”

Coach Kieran Keane is expected to make some changes “to rest players”, but new outhalf Andrew Deegan is not expected to feature yet.

“He’s had a week of physical conditioning, so he has just joined the squad for training this week and getting used to the how the game is played. I think this week is a week too early to be involved.

Rory Scholes has been very good. Coming from Edinburgh after not the greatest season, he is really enjoying it, is effective in training, has a real spark, and I think he will start to feature in the next couple of weeks.”

Connacht have been boosted with scrumhalf Caolin Blade and the Ireland trio, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, and Tiernan O’Halloran, having come through last weekend’s game with no recurrence of recent injuries.

Lock Andrew Browne is recovering from an Achilles injury and remains doubtful, while backrow Naulia Dawaii has returned to training but is an unlikely starter. Sean O’Brien is due to have a scan on his shoulder on Wednesday while scrumhalf James Mitchell (shoulder), centre Peter Robb (hip surgery) and Niyi Adeolokun (knee) are all ruled out.

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