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'It happens too much' - Friend says Connacht deserve more respect

The Connacht head coach has passionately defended the club following disparaging comments by Bulls boss Jake White.

The Connacht squad are put through their paces during a training session yesterday.
The Connacht squad are put through their paces during a training session yesterday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

FOLLOWING LAST FRIDAY’S excellent win over the Bulls, Andy Friend must have hoped his Connacht squad would carry a well-earned feel good factor into this week’s preparations for gameweek three of the United Rugby Championship.

His Connacht team will look to build on that hugely encouraging performance when the Dragons come to town on Saturday, but instead of focusing purely on the positives from Friday’s 34-7 win, Friend and his squad have been left feeling stung by “ill-informed” comments made by Bulls boss Jake White.

Speaking before last Friday’s game at the Sportsground, White painted a picture of Connacht as a team full of players hoping to move on to bigger contracts elsewhere.

Friend and his squad only heard White’s comments after the game, and yesterday the Connacht head coach offered a strong response, admitting that the lack of respect his squad often receives is a source of frustration for him.

“It’s not water off a duck’s back because it happens too much, in my view,” Friend said of White’s comments.

“So it’s just another comment that you store and go ‘Righto, that’s what people think.’

It’s frustrating because I know that there is a lot more to Connacht Rugby than a heap of blokes coming down from Leinster trying to pick up contracts. There is a lot more to what we are about and what we are doing and we have done in the past too.

“To me, it was just an ill-informed comment, but yeah listen, they mount and it does build a little bit of frustration. It’s something that we are very much in control of and something that from a squad point of view, we are saying ‘Well, we’ve got to change their views.’

“We can only do that with our performance both on and off the field. And that’s what we intend to do this season.”

Friend accepted that ultimately, performances will be the main indicator when it comes to how people view his team.

andy-friend Friend watches on during a squad training session on Tuesday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And despite the progress made under the Australian in recent seasons, Connacht are still viewed as a team who are capable of pulling off big performances, but struggle for consistency all too often.

This season, they are hoping to change that.

“We talk about three things that we think can change other people’s belief in how they look at us,” Friend continued.

“One is to be a winner. That certainly helps, but it’s not just a winner on the scoreboard, you’ve got to be a winner in other things too in the way that you conduct yourself and the way you play the game.

“So you might not win every game, but if you are playing a style that empties your tank and you show that you really care about it, that in my mind is a winner.

We talk about being proud. Proud of who we are working for and who we are representing. We are representing all those players. The Club started in 1885, 136 years ago, so a lot of people gone before us, a lot of people are going to come after us.

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“There are a lot of people in this building who aren’t involved in the pro rugby team that make our lives happen. So we are really proud of that, we are proud of who we represent in terms of our own lives and families.

“The last thing is, we attempt to be respectful ourselves. Hopefully you never hear me make a comment like that (comment by White). I wouldn’t do that because I just feel it’s disrespectful.

“We talk about being respectful and treating people the way you want to be treated.

“So if we can do those three things – be winners, be proud, be respectful – I think we will gain the respect that I think we deserve, but it’s up to us to do that.” 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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