Author: Our Reporter
~ 3 minutes read
By JOHN FALLON
CONNACHT head to Lyon this weekend hoping to salvage their Champions Cup hopes but while the French side are surprisingly deep in relegation trouble domestically, head coach Pete Wilkins expects them to be fully loaded for this clash.
A narrow loss away to Bristol and a tight win at home to the Bulls leave Lyon in a good position to qualify, but their form in the Top 14 has been horrendous as they slipped into the bottom two at the weekend when they were hammered 45-0 away to Toulouse.
“Lyon have had their struggles and Toulouse played particularly well against them on Sunday,” said Wilkins. “They’ve had their issues and slipped to 13th place in the Top 14. There’s an opportunity there for us of course but, as we all know, French teams at home are a different proposition.
“The way the fixtures play out for them, they have Perpignan at home when the Top 14 returns after the Champions Cup, which is a huge game for them in the context of their season. And an away trip to Saracens a week before that.
“So I expect them to come for us fully loaded because of that, they’ll be at home and want to do well in front of their home fans and get some confidence, then perhaps de-load against Saracens in order to go again in the league and have a real crack against Perpignan.
“We’re certainly targeting fourth place and there is a home game to finish the group although Bristol are a terrifically strong team,” added Wilkins, whose side could still drop into the Challenge Cup if they fail to make the top four in the Champions Cup.
Connacht’s 22-9 win over Munster on New Year’s Day ended a five-match losing run but while the victory is a big mid-season boost, it came at an enormous price with Mack Hansen ruled out for up to four months and centre Cathal Forde sidelined until February, having also suffered a shoulder injury in that clash.
Hansen is going to miss the Six Nations and will be out of action for up to four months after picking up a shoulder injury in the closing moments.
The 26-year old underwent surgery in Dublin for a dislocated right shoulder on Monday and a time frame of three to four months have been pencilled in for his recovery.
Pictured: Connacht’s Mack Hansen being treated for the arm injury he sustained against Munster in the URC at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day. The winger suffered a dislocated shoulder which is set to rule him out of action for up to four months.
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