PREVIEW: Connacht V Leinster

24 March 2022

PREVIEW: Connacht V Leinster
Head coach Andy Friend wants to see his team bring a high intensity and physicality to Saturday’s 7:35 PM United Rugby Championship interprovincial game with Leinster at The Sportsground.


After a disappointing defeat to Edinburgh last time out, Friend is keen for his side to make amends this coming Saturday and the key to that – he says – is playing with bravery, on both sides of the ball, and speed, hallmarks of Connacht’s tactical blueprint.


“What I want to see when we’re carrying is we’re carrying with real intent and the opposition defenders who are trying to slow our ruck ball – which they will be – removed with real physicality,” the Australian said.


Sticking to Connacht’s principles – which have resulted in victories against Leinster before – is what Friend wants from his players and he wants to see those strategies put into practice from the first whistle on Saturday evening.


“We want our physicality to show, a functioning set piece where we’re winning our line out and defending well against their line out,” the former Australian Sevens coach said.


"Our kicking game being accurate and doing what we’re meant to be doing on it and our fundamentals, our key principles that we talk about ad nauseam, around attack and defence are being adhered to and we have 15 players connected on the field.


“If we see that, it should be a good afternoon.”


Meanwhile, Captain Jarrad Butler says that Connacht are focusing on the upcoming United Rugby Championship clash with Leinster at the Sportsground on Saturday as an individual game and not as part of a trilogy of fixtures against the Eastern province.


After Andy Friend’s men host Leinster at 7:35 PM on Saturday in the league, they will face the reigning league champions twice more in the Heineken Champions Cup in the following weeks, meaning that three of Connacht’s next four fixtures in all competitions will be interprovincial’s against their eastern rivals.


However, Butler knows that taking it each game at a time is the right approach and that is the mentality across the whole squad and coaching staff.


“Playing any team three times in four weeks is bizarre, I haven’t been in a situation like that before,” the back-row forward said.


“Those other two games, in the Champions Cup, we haven’t really started to focus on those now. We have put ourselves under some pressure with the URC(United Rugby Championship).


“I think if you went into this week you could put a lot of pressure on yourself, but I don’t think we can do that. We just have to focus on the game this week and do what we can do to put in a really good performance at home against really good opposition.


“I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we thought too long term, we just have to focus on this week.”


Butler is excited by the prospect of locking horns with Leinster, a team and squad he rates as among the best in Europe.


However, the 30-year-old says that the key to any Connacht win will be focusing on themselves and their own game rather than devising a plan solely based on the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents.


“That Leinster team is just full of so much talent. One of their biggest strengths is their depth,” the former Brumbies man said.


“They have got two full teams that they can put out on the pitch and can do a really good job for them. I think you can’t get too caught up in the selection of that team. You kinda have to worry about your own things, because you really don’t know what kind of team they are going to put out on the field.


“Regardless, all of them are class, they are littered with international players, really high-quality players. It is what it is, you can’t think too much about it, you just have to focus on your stuff. If you get too worried about the team that’s in front of you, you’re halfway to losing the game already.”