European Rugby is back and we kick start our Challenge Cup campaign at home to Newcastle Falcons this Saturday at The Sportsground.
Ahead of the weekends game, Connacht Rugby scrum and contact coach Colm Tucker spoke about the mood in the camp heading into such a big game after last weekends win over Benetton.
“It was a very tough game and was never going to be easy considering the quality of the Benetton squad”
“I thought we played some really good rugby, albeit inconsistently”
“There’s a lot to work on but we were very pleased with the win and to get the five points and come into this weekend with a spring in our step”
While the Champions Cup is the big prize in European rugby, the Challenge Cup brings an array of opportunities for all the teams playing in it.
“Playing in this tournament is a great challenge, we know its not the Champions Cup but there are some brilliant teams in this competition”
“We’re very excited to welcome Newcastle this Saturday and we’re excited to go to Brive next weekend”
“The last number of rounds in the URC we’ve been very good but its a change of focus for us now”
“It’s always exciting to play teams outside of the URC where you test yourself against teams from the Premiership and Top 14”
“This is a tournament we will be taking week by week”
“We aren’t looking past Newcastle and we want to start off the tournament with a win”
The Connacht team will be selected on Friday which Colm spoke about the competition for places when it comes to the starting 15.
“There’s healthy competition for places in this squad for this weekend”
“We have a few internationals away on holidays this week so it does open up to the squad”
“As coaches we know we need to manage the lads throughout the season”
“Its something maybe last year towards the end of the season where guys were a bit banged up so we’re very focused on that this year in terms of managing loads”
“You will probably see some old faces mixed with new faces out there this weekend which is very positive for us”
As Newcastle come to town, it’s a new opponent to the regular URC sides that Connacht come up against every year. What does the Connacht coach expect to see from the English side?
“They have very creative launches, they have good half-backs and real pace out on the wings” said Tucker
“We will need to look at how we nullify them at launch time”
“Our breakdown has to be good as well as their defensive breakdown is one of the best in the Premiership”
This season Colm is in a new role with Connacht moving to scrum and contact coach where he said he’s enjoying every minute of it.
“I was raised around the scrum and contact area, scrummaging is one of my favourite elements of the game”
“Some people like to watch players running up the wing whereas I like to watch scrummaging”
“The other coaches have been great and have allowed me the time I need with the pack”
English clubs are in a dark place at the moment from what we’ve seen with Wasps and Worcester over the last few months but there’s no relegation in the Premiership this year which may focus English teams minds more on winning the Challenge Cup.
“Yeah they might and the fact its the first game as well means Newcastle will look to send a fully loaded side over here”
“We’re expecting a huge challenge but also a very good game of rugby with the way they approach games
Get your tickets for Saturday’s game at The Sportsground right HERE