James Crombie/INPHO Connacht captain Jack Carty.
Bouncing Back
Connacht wait for one more signing but Friend is 'really happy' with his squad
Captain and out-half Jack Carty is hopeful the players can cut out their habit of making consecutive errors.

THE BIG CHALLENGE for Connacht, according to their boss, is to become “better professionals.”

Andy Friend’s strong words came in the wake of Friday evening’s Champions Cup hammering at the hands of Leinster, a defeat that ensures Connacht’s season is simply petering out.

It will take a miracle for the westerners to feature in the United Rugby Championship play-offs with three regular-season games remaining, although they left on their two-game tour to South Africa yesterday determined to restore some pride against the Lions and Sharks.

Friend said he had seen signs of improvement in his players’ daily and weekly approach to being professionals over the past fortnight, but there is still plenty of work ahead, as captain Jack Carty admitted.

“Friendy alluded to it,” said Carty, “there has definitely been a change in the last two weeks in terms of prep and how fellas went about it.

“I think if we potentially had that for a longer sustained period of time, that would be a big thing moving forward for us.

“I suppose when Leinster get scores, we have conversations under the sticks but it’s all well and good having conversations underneath the sticks, we need to act on that.

“Look, we restarted, they kicked back to us and we turn over. We gave them too easy access and that’s probably the main thing for us.

“We do something poor and then we back it up with a poor action, whereas the top teams cut it there. You never see… even the Irish national team, you never see them go bad to bad to bad.

leva-fifita-with-abraham-papalii-dejected-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Abraham Papali'i and Leva Fifita. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“You might see bad to bad but they cut it there. Usually, if you end up having three bads back-to-back, you’ll end up underneath your own sticks and I think that’s something we unfortunately had on too many occasions.”

Carty is hopeful that Connacht’s more experienced players can lead the charge in terms of driving standards to a higher level. 

Again, he insists he has seen signs of that already.

“When you have a couple of lads away with the international team, you have seen them really step forward in terms of Mack [Hansen], Finlay [Bealham] and Bundee [Aki],” said Carty.

“They have really grabbed certain fellas in their positions. Mack or Finlay have a couple of young fellas in their position and they have taken them under their wing.

“I suppose the last two weeks have been a tough learning curve for the front rows but I don’t think they will come up against a tougher front row opposition.”

The new arrivals this summer should help improve the quality of Connacht’s squad, with Josh Murphy, Adam Byrne, Peter Dooley and David Hawkshaw joining from Leinster, Byron Ralston arriving from Australia, and Shamus Hurley-Langton coming in from New Zealand.

You can’t escape the feeling that Friend would like a couple more on top of that, but he said there will only be one other new signing ahead of next season.

the-connacht-team-dejected-under-the-posts-after-conceding-another-try Billy Stickland / INPHO Connacht were well beaten on Friday. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“We are hopefully waiting on one more,” said Friend. “But it is enough, I am actually really happy with our squad. That was our message to our boys.

“We have got the talent. We just have to make sure we nurture the talent individually. That’s on us as coaches but also as players. It’s on them to nurture their own talent and make sure they are delivering and getting the best out of themselves.

“At the end of the day, that does rest with me. If it’s not right then I need to take a look at what I’m doing. So that’s my big focus.”

While Connacht look almost certain to be playing in the Challenge Cup next season, rather than the Champions Cup, and are unlikely to feature in the URC play-offs, there have been some positive things to come out of this season.

A few younger players have emerged forcefully, none more so than back row Cian Prendergast, while Carty has taken over as the match-day captain of the team.

He has enjoyed the job but admits that being the skipper makes days like last Friday all the harder.

“It’s been tough over the last couple of weeks. You take the losses a bit more personally when you’re leading the lads.

“But, yeah, definitely, as captain you kinda have to wear it. It’s definitely tougher.”

Connacht’s 28-man squad on South Africa tour:


Jack Aungier
Finlay Bealham
Paul Boyle
Denis Buckley
Jarrad Butler
Oisín Dowling
Jordan Duggan
Leva Fifita
Dave Heffernan
Greg McGrath
Jonny Murphy
Niall Murray
Conor Oliver
Cian Prendergast
Gavin Thornbury
Dylan Tierney-Martin


Bundee Aki
Caolin Blade
Shayne Bolton
Jack Carty
Tom Daly
Tom Farrell
Conor Fitzgerald
Mack Hansen
Kieran Marmion
Tiernan O’Halloran
John Porch
Alex Wootton

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