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Connacht 'heading in the right direction' as trio return to training

Paddy McAllister, Tiernan O’Halloran and Eoghan Masterson are all back training ahead of Friday’s game against the Dragons.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend says he’s been hugely encouraged by the reaction of his squad following back-to-back defeats in the Guinness Pro14 as the province prepare for Friday night’s trip to play Dragons at Rodney Parade [KO 7.35pm].

Connacht recorded a stunning win over Leinster in early January but have followed that performance with successive home defeats to Munster and Ospreys, a run which leaves them one point clear (with two games in hand) on third-placed Cardiff Blues in the Conference B table. 

But Friend, who signed a new contract with Connacht last week, says that while results haven’t been going their way recently, he’s confident the squad are still heading in the right direction.

“I think every situation that we’ve had (in terms of the defeats) has been slightly different. The Munster performance or the tail-end of that game, I felt like we resolved that in the Ospreys performance because just before half-time we had a very similar situation and we scored from it,” Friend said.

“Listen, there are a few things for us to continue to work on. What I’ve really been pleased with is that predominately a lot of it is player led anyway. The players have been having the conversations, which we’ve been encouraging, and challenging each other on the way they are doing things in terms of decision making out there and their mindsets when they get out there.

“Us as a group of coaches, we’re looking at ourselves and saying are we delivering the right messages in the week? Are we delivering the right gameplan? So between ourselves and the players, as one team, we’re looking at always trying to be better. And that’s a never ending process.

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“We talked about that at the front of this week too, we’ve got to have this relentless pursuit of excellence. Which… you’ll never get there, but as long as every day you are trying to get better and with every performance you are trying to make it better, then you are heading in the right direction, which is where we are going at the minute.”  

The good news is that Paddy McAllister (hand), Tiernan O’Halloran (thigh) and Eoghan Masterson are all back training following injury, although of the three, Masterson looks the most likely to be fit enough to feature against the Dragons, who come into the game on the back of a five game losing streak.

Meanwhile Stephen Kerins will require further assessment on a knee injury sustained in training last week, while Sean O’Brien and Ben O’Donnell are both continuing their progression through graduated return to play protocols following head injuries sustained in the Munster game. 

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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