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Connacht boss Friend tells players to stay away from social media feedback

Loosehead prop Paddy McAllister has defended captain Paul Boyle on Twitter.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CONNACHT COACH ANDY Friend said that players should stay away from social media and rely instead on the people they trust for feedback on how they are doing.

He made his comments after Connacht prop Paddy McAllister lashed out on Twitter at what he saw as the ‘ridiculous’ abuse being levelled at stand-in captain Paul Boyle who made a wrong call in the dying moments of their Champions Cup loss to Bristol Bears on Sunday evening which cost them a losing bonus point.

He opted to go for a try in the final play when they were eight points adrift instead of taking a penalty in front of the posts and the 23-year old was the first to put his hands up afterwards and admit it was a poor call.

Initially, it was feared that the loss of the point might impact on them making the Challenge Cup quarter-finals by finishing in the top eight, but even this appears beyond them after losing their opening two matches and it will probably take a remarkable series of results in January for the missed bonus point to have any real significance.

The key factor in Sunday’s 27-18 loss to Bristol Bears was a yellow card picked up just after half-time by Bundee Aki, with Pat Lam’s side hitting them for 14 points when they had the extra man.

Some fans voiced criticism of Boyle’s late decision but most offset it against the superb performances he has produced since moving to Galway and the leadership role he has taken on, and a cursory search on social media did not unveil the abuse which McAllister referred to.

“I was aware of Paddy’s tweet so he obviously saw something,” said Friend. “It is unfortunately one of those things happening at the moment, isn’t it, in the world? People want to have their voice heard and they can put something out.

“My message to the players, and it’s one I adhere to too, is that the only person worse than the bloke who writes it is the bloke who reads it. Stop reading it, don’t worry about it. Surround yourself with the people that you want to know their opinion.

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“I had this conversation with Paul Boyle yesterday, I said to him ‘I’m sure your parents, I’m sure you have got a couple of teammates, you have us as rugby coaches, there might be five or six people who, if you are not sure how your decision was received, check in with those people and don’t check in with anyone else because we will tell you’.

“And my honest opinion with Paul, and I backed him, if Paul wants to make that decision, he’s the skipper on the night and good luck to him and I’ll stay that way forever. We might have a conversation later around was there another option, and no doubt there was another option, but no one can comment on that unless you are out there in the moment and that’s why I leave it to the skipper to make the call and I’ll back him all the way.”

Friend said fans were entitled to their opinion and to be critical, but not be abusive.

“There is a fine line with that stuff. People are entitled to their opinion, that’s fine, I have no issue with that, I really don’t, as long as it doesn’t become personal but if you are going to be fragile about it, don’t read them. Just stick to the people whose opinions you want to listen to and you’ll be okay.”

His focus switches to three Irish derbies over the festive period, starting with Ulster at the Sportsground on Sunday.

Connacht will be without Aki, who will be rested as part of the international player welfare programme, but will welcome back experienced locks Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury, although winger Alex Wootton faces a scan today on a leg injury.

Meanwhile, Friend said that Aussie sevens player Ben O’Donnell looks set to make his Connacht debut over the festive derbies after the 25-year old winger has recovered from a serious knee injury.

About the author:

John Fallon

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