Connacht set to hit ground running with positive draw


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Connacht set to hit ground running with positive draw Connacht set to hit ground running with positive draw


CONNACHT’S campaign last season was derailed before it ever started when the laying of their 4G surface at the Sportsground forced them to play their opening three games away from home, resulting in losses to Ulster and in South Africa to the Stormers and the Bulls.

It meant Head Coach Andy Friend was fighting an uphill from the outset in his final season and while they admirably recovered from failing to pick up a point in those opening three games, his successor Pete Wilkins has been dealt a kinder hand.

Connacht will be at home for their opening three games when the new URC season opens towards the end of October and with less players likely to be tied up on World Cup duty, they have a great chance to steal a march on their opponents.

That’s what they did in 2015 when the World Cup was in England and they went on to lift silverware for the first time when Pat Lam’s men captured the Pro12 title in 2016.

Backs Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki, along with tighthead Finlay Bealham, could be the only Connacht players in the World Cup squad, although opportunities could open up if there are injuries for scrum-half Caolin Blade, hooker Dave Heffernan and utility back five player Cian Prendergast.

There is also growing speculation that star signing from Bordeaux Begles, Argentina winger and full-back Santiago Cordero, might not make the Pumas’ World Cup squad and would be available from the outset for Connacht. The 29-year-old is in Argentina’s Rugby Championship squad but with a niggling injury, is struggling to get game-time.

He is one of several good signings on their way to the Sportsground. Connacht have lost Kieran Marmion, Shane Delahunt and Alex Wootton, among others, but new arrivals include lock Joe Joyce from Bristol Bears, New Zealander and Irish-qualified No.8 Sean Jansen from Leicester Tigers, and former Munster out-half JJ Hanrahan from Dragons.

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