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Connacht eye up success at Sixways to shake up horrid form on English soil

Warren Gatland was at the helm for one memorable, but all-too-rare Connacht win in England.

CONNACHT HAVE ENJOYED great success away to a dozen French clubs in Europe, but their record in England is dreadful with just two wins from 22 trips across the water.

They will get a glorious chance tomorrow to start amending that sequence of results when they take on Worcester Warriors at Sixways. New coach Alan Solomons is hinting at fielding a weakened team as he concentrates on Premiership survival.

Jimmy Duffy and Kieran Keane Kieran Keane with forwards coach Jimmy Duffy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sixways is one of just two venues in England where Connacht have managed to win, with victory tomorrow guaranteeing a quarter-final place in this season’s Challenge Cup and all but securing home advantage in that tie.

But to wrap all that up, Connacht will need to buck the trend that has seen them come back across the Irish Sea empty-handed 20 times out of 22 visits.

In contrast, Connacht have won away to 12 French clubs, while they have also recorded wins in the professional era in Scotland, Wales, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Russia.

Connacht secured one of their best ever results on their first trip to England back in 1997 when a team coached by Warren Gatland completed the double over a star-studded Northampton Saints team at Franklin’s Gardens.

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But since then it has been one tale of woe after another. London Irish hammered them 75-5 in 2008-9, a year later Connacht lost 39-0 in Newcastle, while Sale Sharks won a quarter-final in 2005 by 59-9.

Connacht’s four seasons in the Heineken or Champions Cup also saw a few harrowing results, going down 64-6 to Saracens and 47-8 to Harlequins.

Where applicable, Connacht have only managed to pick up losing bonus points on two occasions in England.

Connacht’s only win since that maiden voyage to Northampton came against tomorrow’s opponents Worcester Warriors when they won 26-21 at Sixways in the 2009-10 season.

The hero that day was current Munster out-half Ian Keatley who scored a try and kicked eleven points in a game where Leinster hooker Sean Cronin was also among the try scorers.

Ian Keatley Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Skipper John Muldoon is the only survivor for Connacht from that day as they bid to continue their excellent form in the Challenge Cup this season.

And with 10 straight defeats on English soil since that win at Sixways, tomorrow presents a great chance to start correcting the record. But forwards coach Jimmy Duffy has warned that they need to be wary of any team prepared by former Ulster supremo Alan Solomons.

“Any team I have ever coached against one run by Alan, you know they are going to be tough and physical, they know what they are doing and they are good at it. You are going to have to be on your mark to combat that and that’s what we are looking to do,” said Duffy.

Connacht’s record in England

(All Challenge Cup unless stated)

1997-98 Beat Northampton Saints 20-15

2001-02 Lost Sale Sharks 44-6

2003-04 Lost Harlequins 31-22

2004-05 Lost Sale Sharks 59-9

2005-06 Lost Worcester Warriors 30-20

Lost Newcastle Falcons 23-3

2006-07 Lost Harlequins 26-10

Lost Bath 21-19

2007-08 Lost Newcastle Falcons 39-0

2008-09 Lost London Irish 75-5

Lost Northampton Saints 42-13

2009-10 Beat Worcester Warriors 26-21

2010-11 Lost Harlequins 20-9

2011-12 Lost Harlequins 25-17 (Heineken Cup)

Lost Gloucester 23-19 (Heineken Cup)

2012-13 Lost Harlequins 47-8 (Heineken Cup)

2013-14 Lost Saracens 64-6 (Heineken Cup)

2014-15 Lost Exeter 33-24

Lost Gloucester 40-32 (Champions Cup qualifier)

2015-16 Lost Newcastle Falcons 29-5

2016-17 Lost Wasps 32-14 (Champions Cup)

Lost Northampton Saints 21-15 (Champions Cup qualifier)

Back from injury, brilliant Butler doesn’t want to miss a beat for Connacht

Tireless Van der Flier not resting on his laurels as he works to become the complete seven

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