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Dublin: 0°C Friday 22 January 2021

Six things we want to see from Ireland's provinces this weekend

It’s another big weekend in the Champions Cup.

Keep the good times rolling, Connacht

IT’S SIX GAMES and counting in Connacht’s unbeaten stretch at the Sportsgrounds.

And while the Challenge Cup offers little more than pride and a medal if you go all the way and win it, a seventh win would ensure Connacht take that unbeaten home record in to 2015.

Bundee Aki and Mils Muliaina Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It would also keep the confidence levels nice and high going in to a block of vital inter-pros over the Christmas period.

Munster, make it tight and intense

A Saturday evening in winter, the perfect time to go and watch Munster play European rugby in Thomond Park.

Yet while the crowd will be in full voice and calling on the home side to tear into Clermont at every opportunity, Anthony Foley’s men must work to maintain a claustrophobic and well-structured game.

Clermont will be difficult enough to beat that way, but if the play becomes fractured and the game opens up, it will play right into their skilful hands.

More of the same from Paulie’s pack

At 35, Paul O’Connell is playing some of the best rugby of his life and he has taken the fight to Clermont, against much more foreboding odds, before.

Tommy O'Donnell and Paul O'Connell after the match Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With his pack firing on all cylinders, making gainlines and generating clean ball Conor Murray can have the platform needed to guide Munster to a third victory in the pool. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a six-point cushion to take to Stade Michelin?

Nothing less than five points will do for Ulster

While Tommy Bowe says less than 20 points might be enough to let Ulster sneak in to the knock-out stages, they still have only one point to their name.

On paper, the back-to-back meetings with the Scarlets are the easiest fixtures in their pool. But going in to a game knowing you’re on the verge of exiting the tournament brings its own pressure.

Robbie Diack Source: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

Doak and his players have talked about putting in an 80-minute performance this week to put an end to teams fighting back and eating up their lead. And within those 80 minutes the northern province need a minimum of four tries to keep that faint hope of a qualification alive.

Purposeful kicking from Leinster

Whether or not Matt O’Connor decides to stick with Jimmy Gopperth, Leinster are not likely to greatly veer away from the current plan of attack.

To make that plan look like a plan, the kicking from hands must be better, closer and offer more opportunities for players to chase and contest.

Jimmy Gopperth Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Currently ninth in the Premiership, Harlequins haven’t provided much to scare the wits out of opponents this season, but a few loose kicks to Mike Brown could change all of that.

Effective work at the breakdown

With Jamie Heaslip back in harness, Leinster have the tools to transform into a forward-marching side.

Everything in open play stems from the breakdown and Leinster have the tools to take apart ‘Quins in that area. A little quick ball can do wonders for a side that otherwise looks to be lacking invention.

Ulster aiming to be ‘squeaky clean’ with Tuohy and Pienaar back on board

Connacht likely to save Henshaw for Leinster clash, Roux hopes to prove fitness for Bayonne

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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