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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 9 May 2021

'If there's an opportunity, we have to take it': Connacht out to rewrite history

Andy Friend’s side are bidding to win in Belfast for the first time in 58 years tonight.

Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler in training earlier this week.
Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler in training earlier this week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend has called on his players to be ruthless in the red zone as they attempt to make history with victory in Belfast this evening [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport].

Connacht have never won a Guinness Pro14 game in Ulster and they come into this game on the back of a 20-3 defeat at the hands of inter-provincial rivals Leinster last Saturday, having failed to score a try in that game. 

Friend has made four changes to his side with Jarrad Butler returning as captain while last week’s skipper Dave Heffernan misses out through injury.

“Away from home and in the inter-pros, you are not going to get many chances, and we probably had a couple of chances against Leinster, and that can be the difference in a game,” Friend said.

“So, if there’s an opportunity, we have to take it. If we are the team with that ruthless and clinical desire, then we have a fair chance of winning it.”

Connacht have lost all 15 of their league games in Belfast including last season’s 16-8 defeat, although the western province were 44-16 winners when the sides met at the Sportsground last term. 

Tom McCartney replaces Heffernan at hooker and academy back row Paul Boyle comes in for Robin Copeland at number eight, and slots in alongside Butler who is at openside flanker.

The only other change sees Matt Healy start on the left wing instead of Cian Kelleher. He was injured and missed out on the defeat to the Pro14 and Champions Cup holders.

Andy Friend Andy Friend speaking in Galway earlier this week. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Connacht have not defeated Ulster at Kingspan Stadium since 1960 but Friend is confident his players won’t be weighed down by the province’s dismal record.

“I reckon in the last 58 years there’s probably been 58 occasions when they have talked about that, and it hasn’t worked,” he continued.

“So I thought bugger that, we will break the trend, and we haven’t talked about it. When we win, we will talk about it, without a doubt.

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“We haven’t spoken to the boys about it at all. We have spoken as a coaching staff, and it’s like ‘same old same old, let’s not talk about,’ so we haven’t.”


15. Peter Nelson
14. Angus Kernohan
13. Angus Curtis
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Billy Burns
9. John Cooney

1. Andrew Warwick
2. Rory Best
3. Tom O’Toole
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Iain Henderson
6. Matthew Rea
7. Nick Timoney
8. Marcell Coetzee


16 Adam McBurney
17 Eric O’Sullivan
18 Ross Kane
19 Kieran Treadwell
20 Sean Reidy
21 Dave Shanahan
22 Johnny McPhillips
23 James Hume.


15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Quinn Roux
6. Sean O’Brien
7. Jarrad Butler (captain)
8. Paul Boyle.


16. Shane Delahunt
17. Peter McCabe
18. Conor Carey
19. James Cannon
20. Colby Fainga’a
21. Caolin Blade
22. Kyle Godwin
23. Cian Kelleher.

Referee: Andrew Brace [IRFU].

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

About the author:

Daragh Small

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