PREVIEW: Connacht V Glasgow Warriors

26 January 2022

PREVIEW: Connacht V Glasgow Warriors
Senior coach Pete Wilkins is confident that Connacht can get back to winning ways when they resume United Rugby Championship action on Saturday afternoon at home to the Glasgow Warriors. 


The Westerners have been in European action for the previous two weekends and, despite qualifying for the last sixteen of the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time in the club’s history and playing some scintillating attacking rugby, were narrowly defeated by Leicester Tigers and Stade Francais. 


But Wilkins says he trusts the Connacht playing personnel’s mentality and he doesn’t expect them to dwell on their European defeats but instead looking forward to Glasgow with excitement. 


The players, he said, understand where their defeats stemmed from but it hasn’t damaged their enthusiasm to play in the trademark, attacking style of rugby that they play so fluidly. 


“I’d be confident in that I back our players wholeheartedly anyway,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 


“But I’d also be confident in that they have shown a really good understanding – as coaches, we have presented it very clearly, the reasons for the two defeats – and the players have demonstrated a clear understanding of that, both in terms of the questions and comments they have fed back to us. But also in how we referenced it back to how we want to play the game. 


“It’s not inventing something different that we need to do to try to avoid these scenarios, it’s staying true to what we’re doing. We just went too far on the side of the dial in the Leicester game and too far the other in the Stade game. 


“I think it’s returning and re-emphasizing what we know, rather than introducing something new. On those grounds, I am confident that we have learned lessons and, as I said, if one demonstrates they haven’t, then there’s no place to hide in that respect.”


Wilkins excepts Glasgow – whose attack is coached by former Connacht player and coach Nigel Carolan – to implement an attacking game plan at the Sportsground. 


“I think it’s great. Everyone is looking forward to seeing Nigel and it’s probably more an occasion for him – coming back to his home patch – than the other way around, but we’ll looking forward to seeing him and look forward to seeing what they bring. 


“From what we’ve seen of Glasgow, they’ve been true to their identity of the last few seasons, that they want to run the ball, that they want to play with possession and they want to work you around and try to identity space and move the ball to that space. 


“We’re expecting to be up against a possession team, probably a team that kicks less and certainly kicks shorter than the opponents we have had in the last few weeks with Stade and Leicester. It will be a great challenge because you get two teams out there who want to play rugby, who want to be in possession of the ball.


“It’s not just a battle for that possession, it’s also then how efficient and accurate you are with it. We’ll look to put plenty of pressure on them, to test them around that area, and equally, we’ll have to make sure that we’re up to the mark when we’ve got the ball as well. It shapes up to be a really exciting game.”


Meanwhile, back row Paul Boyle says that the competition within the Connacht squad is pushing all the players to reach their top levels. 


The Westerners had four players included in the Irish squad for the upcoming Six Nations, Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, and Mack Hansen, while Cian Prendergast was selected as a development player. 


Boyle says this is an indicator of the quality in the squad and it is pushing him to work even harder on his game and reclaim a regular starting berth in the back row. 


“Yeah, look, it’s really good. Competition breeds success,” the Irish international said. 


“Yes, I have had a couple of injuries. Performance-wise, have I been at my best? No, I’ll admit that I haven’t. So I have had to look into that, why is that. I’m focused on working on the things that have been letting me down and hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity this weekend to start. 


“That’s what everyone is looking for, looking for an opportunity to show what you’re made of and see if you’re good enough to get in.”