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Dillane keen for Connacht tempo against heavyweight Montpellier

The 26-year-old second row makes a timely return on Sunday in Galway.

THE MESSAGE COMING out of the Sportsground all week has been crystal clear — Connacht need to move the ball and avoid getting into an arm wrestle with Montpellier’s gigantic pack.

And lock forward Ultan Dillane is confident that they have the armoury to take down the French side and get their Heineken Champions Cup campaign off to a flying start even in the midst of an injury crisis.

ultan-dillane Dillane is set to return for Connacht on Sunday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It is almost similar to when we played Toulouse the last time we were in the Champions Cup,” said Dillane, who turned 26 last week. 

“They had so many players over 120kg or 130kg. It was probably one of the heaviest packs in the world in the scrum, we definitely felt that.

“We just realised that moving the ball at pace, they found it quite tough to live with. That could be similar this weekend. They do have a lot of heavy players. A bit of tempo might work.”

Dillane has put his World Cup omission behind him and knuckled down with Connacht and with Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, and Sean O’Brien all injured he is going to have to do more of the heavy lifting this Sunday and away to Toulouse next weekend.

The Paris-born and Kerry-raised second row said it is unfortunate that Connacht have been hit by a spate of injuries as they mark their return to Europe’s elite, but he’s hopeful they can deal with it.

“That is unfortunately what can happen to any team at any moment. Injury is so common nowadays. The boys have been in such fantastic form it naturally puts healthy pressure on anyone else coming through, be it myself or otherwise.

“You have got to relish the challenge because it is such a great opportunity to show what you can do in big games like this weekend.”

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Dillane, who made his debut against Leinster almost five years ago, has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least the summer of 2021.

ultan-dillane Dillane's return is timely amidst an injury crisis. Source: Tom O’Hanlon/INPHO

He won the last of his 14 Ireland caps against France last March and knows that the return to the Heineken Champions Cup presents an opportunity to impress new Irish coach Andy Farrell.

“It is these European games and the derby matches. I am quite confident in playing near my best at the moment. It has been good.

“These games are not just for players like me. It is for anyone coming through the ranks. Everybody has got a chance to put their hands up, whoever is on that starting team or on the bench.

“It is a huge opportunity which makes it all the more exciting for players,” he added.

First up, though, is Montpellier and a lunchtime kick-off on Sunday as Connacht feature in Europe’s premier competition for only the fifth time and only the second time that they have made it off their own steam.

“Montpellier are obviously a challenge, the experience they have,” said Dillane. “The pack this weekend, you could be playing against a number of French internationals or Georgian players.

“They will outweigh us, we can reflect back to the Toulouse match a couple of years ago, they were probably the heaviest pack we had ever gone against in the scrum. We are modifying our training a bit but it will be a good challenge for us.”

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John Fallon

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