Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
©INPHO/James Crombie Danie Poolman and Fetu'u Vainikolo in action for Connacht.
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Pro12: Connacht victory crucial for make-or-break month says Poolman
The westerners entertain Edinburgh in Glasgow this evening ahead of Heineken Cup matches against Biarritz.

THE INTERNATIONAL BREAK has pitfalls for every side.

Injuries, over-exposure and fatigue are the obvious drawbacks and Connacht will be all too aware of the first after John Muldoon was carried from the Thomond Park pitch two weeks ago.

The province’s two other international travellers – jet-setting Fetu’u Vainikolo and M6-travelling Mike McCarthy – excelled during the November internationals.

The payback, however, comes with the news that neither McCarthy or the Tongan winger will start against Edinburgh today.

That is why Connacht must have welcomed news, on Wednesday, that newly-signed centre Danie Poolman has his sights set on playing for Ireland.

If Poolman’s ambitions are realised he will have contributed three productive seasons for the westerners before he is eligible to play.

Frustrating start

Poolman’s signing from the Stormers in South Africa represented a coup for the province but he arrived with an injury and missed out on the first two months of the season.

He made his debut as a replacement away to Ospreys in October and was on the scoresheet in a home win over Treviso.

“It really helped,” Poolman told ”To get my first try in my first start after my leg injury really got my confidence up.

“My sharpness is improving but my fitness is not there just yet. My lungs are slowly getting up to the speed of the game.”

Poolman feels the lose of Muldoon will impact the team but he notes that several of the squad’s younger members have performed well when called upon this season.

He has been particularly impressed by the form of 19-year-old fullback Robbie Henshaw. Poolman said:

Robbie has really stepped up. He was the player’s player of the month so that tells you how much he is thought of. His positional play and defence and, with the ball in hand, he is very good on the break.

“He is just out of school but I know, in time, he will be an Irish star of the future.”

Yellow peril

It would not be understating the matter to say Connacht need to win against Edinburgh or face being cut adrift.

Their 14-3 loss to Dragons in Wales last weekend was mainly due to the concurrent yellow cards for Jason-Harris Wright and Andrew Browne.

“We were really on top at that stage,” recalled Poolman. “We had chances but couldn’t find the final ball and make it stick.

One of the [yellows] was for killing the ball. It was so intense out there. I knew we had lost a man but someone turned around soon after and told me we were down to 13.”

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It has taken just three matches for Poolman to realise ‘there are no easy games’ in the Pro12 but he is hoping for vocal home support at the Sportsground to overcome Edinburgh.

Vainikolo, he believes, is the trump card on the Connacht bench.

“For the past few months he has been in great form,” said Poolman. “He scored a try against Italy the week before.

“His try, when he broke the Scottish lines, was amazing. It should give him confidence going into the weekend.”

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Connacht take on Edinburgh at the Sportsground, Galway, at 5pm. The game will not be broadcast live so the province is encouraging supporters to get along and support the team.

Further information on tickets can be found here.

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