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Connacht ready to go toe-to-toe with Munster maul

The southern province profited from the set-piece in January, but Connacht are wary of getting stuck in the same trap.

Image: Elena Barbini/INPHO

CONNACHT FORWARDS COACH Jimmy Duffy is acutely aware of the threat posed by Munster’s maul ahead of Friday’s inter-pro clash at Thomond Park (19.35, eir Sport).

Johann van Graan’s men relied on some traditional Munster values when the sides met in January at the Sportsground. Even before the rolling maul that led to an early Chris Farrell try there was a memorable 15-metre gain through the eight-man effort as Munster built an early 0-10 lead in a 10-16 game that Connacht almost snatched at the death.

Duffy stopped short of either a battle cry or feigning certainty that the tide would turn the western province’s way this time out, but he is confident in his team’s ability to work around Munster’s strength.

“They’ve got massive pride in their scrum and maul as we do,” said Duffy.

“It’s a weapon for them and something they do quite a lot. Whether it be on exits, in the middle of the pitch or the final third. When you do something and you’re good at it, you’d be foolish to move away from it.

“We’re aware it’s a big weapon and one we’ve to negate as best we can.”

Duffy could afford more optimism after last weekend’s clutch line-out maul move successfully grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat away to Benetton.

Bundee Aki slotted into the hooker position at the back of the maul and grounded the winning score, but Duffy was most pleased with the confidence of Oisin Dowling to take responsibility for the set-piece on his first start for his adopted team.

“We trusted the lads to make the right call. We knew we had the right amount of weight to throw at them. Treviso hit that front side of the maul really hard, but if you can be patient, just slow it down then you can create an opportunity.

“To me, it was very pleasing on the weekend that they went back and backed the system, created that opportunity and scored it.

“It was really pleasing, especially with Oisin Dowling coming back and calling that option on himself.

“In training he’s been a thorn in the sides of the others, which is encouraging us all to get better.”

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It goes without saying that a mauled winner against Benetton and making inroads against Munster are very different animals. However, January’s outcome is dead and gone too. Both packs start this one fresh.

“You have good days and bad days. We’ve made a few tweaks and had personnel changes. People are learning, getting better. We very much focus on it every week to be honest. It’s been improving the last month, month and a half.”

He adds: “They’ve certain things they’re good at and we’ve things we’re good at. I like to think it’ll be the same the other side of the ball. When we’ve an attacking maul it’s a threat as well.

“When two packs go toe-to-toe, they’ll try to assert ascendancy and we will as well.
We’ll see on Friday night.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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