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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Roux a major doubt as Connacht look to rotate for Challenge Cup quarter-final

Andy Friend’s side are fighting on two fronts and the head coach will look to shuffle his pack for Friday’s trip to Sale Sharks.

CONNACHT ARE SET to be without Quinn Roux for Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Sale Sharks, as Andy Friend looks to rotate his squad ahead of key games in the Guinness Pro14. 

Roux, who featured in four of Ireland’s Six Nations games, trained with Connacht in Galway today but is a major injury doubt for this weekend’s trip to the AJ Bell Stadium [KO 7.45pm, BT Sport] after picking up a knock. 

Quinn Roux Quinn Roux is nursing an injury. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Ireland second row is also due to be given time off next week and is more ‘unlikely than likely’ to feature as Connacht’s European campaign continues against the Sharks in Manchester. 

“He copped a little knock the other day and we’re conscious that he’s played a lot of football this year,” Andy Friend said this afternoon.

“We’re going to need him at the back end of the year and we’ll make a decision on him later on in the week.

The thing with Quinn, he’s already got a week off next week too but we’re not going to put him out there if there’s a risk of him doing more damage. It’s only a slight thing but we’ll wait and see.

Bundee Aki could, however, make his first appearance for the province since the end of January on Friday night, while Tiernan O’Halloran and Jarrad Butler are both being monitored after sustaining knocks in the victory over Benetton last weekend.

With important league fixtures against Zebre, Cardiff and Munster to come in the next month, Friend admits he will have to shuffle his pack this week as Connacht bid to reach the Pro14 play-offs and secure Champions Cup rugby for next season. 

“We’re fighting on both fronts here at the moment but one of the things we’re really conscious of, we do need to continue to rotate and move that squad around because you just can’t keep putting out the same team week in, week out,” Friend continued.

“We have that in mind as we go into selection for this week. Pro14 is really important to us as well but we want to fight on both fronts and we’ll pick a team that we think can win.

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“I’m really pleased with the way the players have taken opportunities and stepped up when they’re given those opportunities. This is another weekend for that potentially and we haven’t been let down this year.

Andy Friend Friend speaking to media in Galway this afternoon. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We’ve given opportunities and fellas have taken them and done really well. It keeps the whole squad engaged which is really important as we said from the outset, this is a full squad season and we’ve used virtually every player this year. 

“It comes with a touch of risk but at the same time, it comes with a touch of optimism and opportunity.” 

Last Saturday’s Pro14 win over Benetton at the Sportsground maintained Connacht’s momentum heading into a season-defining block of games, starting with a third meeting of the campaign against Sale this Friday night. 

The western province progressed through to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals as one of the best pool runners-up, as they finished level on points with Sale at the top of Pool 3 thanks to a last-ditch win in Bordeaux back in round six. 

“It is a big game,” Friend added. “Sale, we’ve played them twice, so it’s our third meeting with them and they’ve been tough in both games. We managed to win the last one and they managed to get the win in the first one, so we’re on an even keel going into this one.

“For us, it’s quarter-final football, it’s where we wanted to be. A great opportunity for us and we’re pretty excited.” 

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