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'I'm just glad I survived' - Muliaina on making Connacht debut in awful Galway conditions

The 34-year-old show glimpses of what’s to come.

Muliaina made his Connacht debut last night.
Muliaina made his Connacht debut last night.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT MAY NOT have been the most auspicious set of circumstances for an All Black legend to make his debut after a lengthy period on the sidelines but Mils Muliaina showed glimpses of his consummate mastery at a wet and windy Sportsgrounds last night.

The 34-year-old may not have got on the score-sheet during Connacht’s 43-3 victory over Zebre but having waited so long to make his debut for the province, Muliaina was understandably delighted just to be back on the pitch.

“I’m not feeling too bad. It was nice to get back out there,” he told TG4 after the game. “It’s obviously been a long time, but it’s great to get another win under out belts so we’ll keep on moving forward.”
“I’m pretty stoked to get back out there and survive I suppose in some ways.”

In the end, the margin of victory suggests it was a comfortable evening for Pat Lam’s side but in conditions that made even the simple things arduous, the Westerners were forced to be patient against the Italian visitors.

Understandably, Muliaina took time to adapt not only to conditions but the demands of competitive action again after a 12 month lay-off.

It wasn’t long, however, before he had the crowd of over 5,000 purring and justifying their decision to brave the elements with the perfect pass for Danie Poolman to break the visitors’ resistance.

The Westerners eventually crossed the line four times to secure a bonus point win but Muliaina admits there are aspects of their play that need to be worked on.

“It took us a while to get going – a lot of mistakes and 50-50 balls cost us and let Zebre back in to the game. We wanted to tighten things up a little bit on the second half and got a little bit of parity through the forwards and to score four tries we’re pretty happy with that.”

Mils Muliaina celebrates with the players on the bench as he is replaced Muliaina played 62 minutes against Zebre Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“There were a lot of opportunities. The guys saw a lot of opportunities. Unfortunately, we just didn’t execute very well. 50-50 balls, so we just needed to tighten things up and probably earn the right to go wide.

“We struggled to get out of our own half, the exit plays were a little bit ineffective. It’s something to work on next week. To come out like that, there’s plenty of stuff to still work on. Those are two big things; making sure we have ball security, no 50-50s and how you exit are a must to get away from a bit of pressure.

“We’ll enjoy the win, we’ve got a bit of a longer week and then we’re back at the Sportsground to hopefully try and defend it again.”

Muliaina, who played 100 times for New Zealand during an illustrious international career, received a rousing reception from the hardened supporters that braved the elements – incessant rain  - in Galway.

“The atmosphere is awesome. The supporters here are really passionate – weather like this and to still have 5000-odd crowd that turns up. We’re pretty pleased and we’re stoked about turning it on for them tonight.”

Their fifth win of the season moves Pat Lam’s side up to fifth in the Pro12 standings and with the Scarlets to visit the West next week, everyone will be hoping this is just a sign of things to come from the new star of Connacht rugby.

Couple of Cave tries end Ospreys winning run as Ulster move level at Pro12 summit

Debutant Muliaina not on the score-sheet, but Connacht put 43 points on Zebre

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Ryan Bailey

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