After three home games on the bounce its back on the road for Connacht this week in the BKT United Rugby Championship as they travel to Wales where they take on Ospreys at the Swansea.com Stadium this Saturday (k/o 7.35pm).
Connacht Head coach Pete Wilkins spoke to media this week ahead of the game. Pete was asked about the character in the camp and whether or not he thinks the squad is tougher this season compared to last season?
“I’d like to think so”
“We’ve been very fairly branded with that label of inconsistency in seasons gone by, when we’ve broken down those games where we have delivered one week compared to the next its often been a physical or mental intensity that’s been inconsistent”
“A big part of our messaging this year has been about being tougher but needing to strike more consistency to our season”
“Across the season so far I think there has been ongoing growth but that’s worth zero points to be honest in a results term”
Up next for Connacht is an away trip to the men in black. With the Bank of Ireland Nation Series fixtures around the corner, squads across the URC will be without a host of international players. Connacht and Ospreys will be without some of their stars this weekend. With players gone Connacht will once again look to freshen up the match day 23 but Pete feels Saturday’s game is a much tricker tie than it would be if both teams had full squad selections.
“Ospreys have a number of players who will be in the Welsh squad and usually when we play teams that have a number of players missing for internationals we come up stuck a lot”
“That’s a red flag for us and its a challenge us as coaches will be laying down to the players to be ready and respect the threat”
“In terms of our squad management we are getting a better understanding of our best 15 and what our best 23 is”
“As a coaching unit we learned a lot last year about how we need to keep ahead, yes we will have all our attention on the game coming up next but you do need to think further down the line as well”
Conor Oliver was named player of the match on Friday, a fine performance from the flanker who Pete feels is getting better and better.
“Last season he played a lot of minutes in that first half of the season for us and then its on us as coaches to manage him appropriately so he or any players doesn’t fall off a cliff around Christmas time”
“I feel this season we are managing that better with out players”
“Conor brings the exact energy we want in this team, he’s not the only one but he is a key part of that”
The opening six games were always going to be tough for any team not just Connacht but for Pete and the squad finishing this block of games on a win is a must.
“Its so important to finish these block of games with a win and I say that with full respect to the challenge that awaits”
“If we come out of this block of seven games with three wins that’s not too bad for a team that many outside said would struggle to win of the seven games”
The Connacht squad for Saturday’s game will be named on Friday at 12.