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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

'Winning becomes a habit': Friend feels growing confidence as Connacht go into new Pro14 season

Glasgow Warriors will be a tough opening fixture in Galway fro the new coach.

CONNACHT COACH ANDY Friend says they will heading into the Pro14 with confidence after winning all three pre-season games.

The Australian has managed to instil a lot of momentum and self-belief since taking charge at the Sportsground this summer. On Friday night they came from behind at Ashton Gate to defeat a start-studded Bristol side assembled by former Connacht coach Pat Lam by 14-12.

Andy Friend and Jimmy Duffy with Pat Lam Friend, left, and Jimmy Duffy chat with Pat Lam in Bristol. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And after two disappointing seasons since winning the Pro12 in 2016, Connacht fans are optimistic about a good season with Friend making an immediate impact after the sacking of New Zealander Kieran Keane who was only nine months in the job.

“Yeah, it was a very good pre-season,” said Friend after adding Bristol to the pre-season triumphs over Wasps and Brive.

“This was a very different game to the two other games we played but what I was really pleased with was the way we defended at the end to hold them out and get the win.

“It was a really physical game and you need that to test bodies and test systems and I think it did and we are now well placed for the start of the season.

I thought the way we rallied in the second half was pleasing, we lacked the accuracy in the first half but we didn’t panic. We came in at half-time and talked about that and got a lot of things right in the second half.”

He hopes they now take this form into the Pro14, starting at home to Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground on Saturday.

New signing Kyle Godwin has linked up with Tom Farrell into an impressive centre partnership, while the performances of Wexford native Paul Boyle have been particularly noteworthy.

Andy Friend Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The former Ireland U20 captain, who moved from Leinster last summer, scored his first try for Connacht on Friday night in Bristol and could be a bolter this season.

“Winning becomes a habit, you find a way to win and we did that in the second half against Bristol,” added Friend.

“But we are aware these are trial games and it is different when there are competition points on offer but the team has shown a lot of maturity in the past few weeks of games and I thought just the way we finished against Bristol was good, so I think we are ready.”

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John Fallon

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