CONNACHT will look to leapfrog Munster on the Conference ‘A’ league table when they host their southern rivals in the third and final instalment of their festive season interprovincial PRO14 derby fixtures at the Sportsground on Saturday (7:35pm).
A superb victory over Ulster had seen Connacht moved to second place on the table ahead of Munster – that was until Munster dished out a 26-17 defeat to reigning European champions Leinster 24 hours later to reclaim the position.
In other words, whichever side triumphs on Saturday will be in a strong position going forward and on the evidence of Connacht’s displays against Leinster and Ulster, there is certainly plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
This is not lost on scrum-half Caolin Blade, who acknowledges Connacht are in a good place. “Yeah, it is (a good place). Look, you definitely want to be up where you are and competing. It keeps up the spirits in the camp every week.
“We are still alive massively in the two competitions, the Challenge Cup and PRO14, so I just think it is about taking it game by game and taking it as small little blocks, like we are taking these three inter-pros, just trying to win them all really.”
One of the remarkable stats from this season so far is that Blade, be it starting or coming off the bench, is the only player in the westerners’ squad to be involved in all 16 of Connacht’s competitive fixtures.
“I am quite lucky,” he says. “I seem to be durable. I think though it is part luck and part hard work on my rehab and prehab. So, it is just recovering after every game that has allowed me to be up for selection every week. And thankfully I have got selected.”
No doubt, the Monivea man has thrived under new head coach Andy Friend, with Blade admitting Connacht’s style of play seems to be benefitting him greatly. “Massively. I think, definitely, the game up in Leinster, you learn more from those ones. As a game leader or a 9, that is one I would definitely take a lot of learnings from and it has improved me.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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