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'We can’t just roll it out for the inter-pros': Connacht intent on showing their 'New Us'

Hitting their stride for derbies and stuttering overseas isn’t acceptable for Andy Friend.

Tom Daly, Denis Buckley and Conor Fitzgerald at training yesterday.
Tom Daly, Denis Buckley and Conor Fitzgerald at training yesterday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

‘WE ALWAYS GET up for inter-pros, Friendy.’

The New Year has already delivered a landmark win and a near miss against provincial rivals for Connacht, but their head coach remains intent on broadening the focus.

To make hay when the heat of a derby day is removed and they must generate intensity for a fixture with far fewer eyes trained upon it.

This Sunday presents just such an opportunity as their Pro14/Pro12 meeting with Ospreys has been bumped forward from February. A chance for Connacht to show ‘The New Us’.

“It’s one thing to have the intensity against Munster and Leinster, but to make it ‘the new us’ – basically the emotional side is all about the energy and aggression and line-speed  in our defence. That will tell you if you’re on or not.

“That has got to become the new us. We can’t just be rolling it out for the inter-pro stuff.

So this week will be a good test for us mentally to see where we are with it all. I believe if we bring that, it will be too much for the Ospreys.”

Like Connacht, Ospreys have won five matches in this campaign, but the Welsh side are well adrift of Conference A’s front-runners Ulster and Leinster. Connacht are second in Conference B and the 11-point gap to leaders Munster means they would most likely need another change in format to extend their season.

Stranger things have happened.

“At this particular time, we’re told this (season) will finish after this replayed game and another five, but our message to the boys is keep playing because you never know what might happen at the tail of the season.”

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nigel-carolan-and-andy-friend Nigel Carolan and Andy Friend in conversation yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sam Arnold will hope the season is extended as long as possible after he was ruled out until April following surgery on a chest muscle. Bundee Aki is returning from a knee injury and stands a chance of being fit to face Ospreys. If Aki does not hit the required markers this week, Peter Robb will likely slot in alongside Tom Daly in midfield.

Up front, Jarrad Butler and Abraham Papali’i may also return to Jimmy Duffy’s pack.Whatever the personnel, Friend will demand an attitude and intensity to be shown first and foremost through defensive line-speed.

“I believe we’ve made strides in that (consistency), but we’re human. We don’t get up for every game, there’s no doubt we’ve suffered from that this year as well.

“One of those games was Ulster, who I thought brought better energy than we did. That was an inter-pro.

“So we’ll still have days when we don’t bring that energy, but they’re becoming less and less and it’s not just (based on) whether they’re inter-pro games.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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