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'They have brilliant individuals' - Connacht prepare for Stade Francais challenge

The province host the French side at the Sportsground on Sunday.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend says he is fully confident his team can make it a difficult afternoon for Stade Francais when the two sides meet in the opening round of the Champions Cup on Sunday.

The French side currently sit 10th in the Top 14 table, picking up five wins and seven defeats across their 12 outings to date this season, ending a three match losing streak by coming from 14 points down to beat La Rochelle 25-20 on Sunday. 

“The bits we know and have seen about them is they have a very dominant set-piece platform to launch from,” Friend said.

“Their win against La Rochelle at the weekend, and other games, showed when they get that right and that platform to launch, they can get energy off it. So our scrum will be really important, as will our maul. They have brilliant individuals and we have to be aware of the threat those individuals will bring.

“But more importantly, the focus has been over the last four games about us and what we can do. We’re aware of the threats that they have there. We need to get parity in those key areas. But when we get the ball, we can play our style and we believe we can cause them some issues. And when we don’t have the ball, we need to make sure we’re working collectively rather than individually.”

Connacht come into the game on the back of a heavy defeat to Leinster last weekend, the province falling off the pace in the second period after a strong start at the RDS.

However Friend reiterated his belief that there were plenty of positives in that performance, and said Connacht will again look to take the game to Stade Francais at the Sportsground.

“We have a style we’re playing which is probably a tricky style and a reason why not many teams are playing with it,” he continued.

“It does put us under pressure but we’re also aware we have to do things differently. And we still see that as an advantage for us.

But I’ll also pay the players a compliment here too. That (Leinster game) was the least amount of handling errors in the games we’ve played this year. So we actually looked after the ball. Leinster as we know are a high possession team. But we out-possessioned (sic) them on the weekend and we carried about 50 or 60 carries more than they did. And we had less turnovers.

“So there was a lot to like in what we did there. We just needed to be better for longer.”

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Connacht head into the game without the services of Bundee Aki, who continues to rehab the knee injury he sustained during the November internationals.

Meanwhile Paul Boyle will be out of action for a number of weeks with shoulder and Achilles injuries. Denis Buckley (knee), Tom Daly (knee) and Gavin Thornbury (shoulder) are all said to be progressing well with their respective injuries, and the trio will look to return to team training over the next month.

BTL 5

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Ciarán Kennedy

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