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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 19 April, 2019
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'We have to target these games' - Connacht looking to gain World Cup advantage

Second row Andrew Browne is targeting the World Cup period.

Browne making hard yards at the Sportsground last week.
Browne making hard yards at the Sportsground last week.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THEY MAY BE minus Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White, but for Connacht the Rugby World Cup presents more opportunity than misfortune.

There’s probably never a good time to take an away trip to your league’s defending champions, but if there is, the week before the World Cup is likely to be it.

The Glasgow Warriors are without 20 first team players who have been selected for the tournament, and opened their campaign with a 16-10 home defeat to the Scarlets last week.

Pat Lam’s side meanwhile eked out a six point win against the Dragons who – like themselves – have the relative advantage for September and October of having something that resembles their first team.

Connacht’s Andrew Browne says that a firm emphasis has been placed on the opening rounds of matches, and making a similar start to their last campaign, where they won four and drew once in their opening six games.

“They’re (Glasgow) missing a good amount of players. As we’re not missing that many we have to target these games where teams may not be fielding their strongest team. We have to get points on the board early with this World Cup period.

Source: PRO12 Rugby/YouTube

“It’s not just continuity with the team that’s out on the pitch, but throughout the whole training week. Lads know each other inside out at this stage,” he says.

“You have to really build on this World Cup period where teams may not be at their strongest, so that’s our big focus for this block of games up until the World Cup finishes.”

While the Warriors have lost key players, the squad hasn’t been gutted. New signing Mike Blair starts and brings a wealth of experience. A backrow of full internationals; Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe and Rob Harley will test any side.

And they also have Scotstoun to fall back on. They may have slipped up at home to the Scarlets last weekend, but 100 percent record at home last season was the foundation for their success.

“I know they’re missing a lot of players to World Cup duty, but they still have quality players all around the park, and Scotstoun is a very difficult place to go, so they’re going to be ready regardless of the situation.”

With Robbie Henshaw away and several backs injured, 21-year-old Rory Parata has stepped into the 13 shirt during pre-season and indeed on the opening day of the season last week, and has been picked to start again tomorrow night against the Warriors.

Carl Meyer with Bundee Aki and Rory Parata Parata (right), lending his support to centre partner Bundee Aki. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The former Rockwell College student excelled in the Ulster Bank League for Galwegians and with the Connacht Eagles last term, and Browne says the academy prospect can only improve from the opportunity, alongside the exciting Bundee Aki in midfield.

“I think he had a really great pre-season. To see the improvement on last year throughout the summer was fantastic. He’s fully deserving of his shot in there and if he can keep it going he could be very hard to move.

“Realistically would he have got a shot if Robbie was still here? I mean, Robbie’s one of the best players in the country. When he (Parata) does get that opportunity he needs to take it and that’s exactly what he’s done. The confidence he has is showing in the pitch.”

“It’s great for Rory to have a player like that (Aki) beside him. Just to see that break he made last week when we needed it. The match was very close.”

21-year-old academy man Parata at 13 again as Connacht visit champions Glasgow

This charming cartoon of England’s World Cup stars is very hard to dislike

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Neil Treacy

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