Connacht were due to play Ulster in Belfast on St.Stephens’ Day, but the game was postponed due to positive COVID cases in the Northern provinces squad.
But now the focus shifts to Munster – a team who the Westerners only narrowly last out to, 20-18, in their last meeting at Thomond Park in October – on New Years Day in a game which Friend expects to be physical.
“It wasn’t overly disruptive, it was just more disappointing,” the Australian said of the Ulster postponement.
“We all understand it, we understand that people’s wellbeing is at stake here, so we all need to respect that and we do respect that. The hard bit is and the disappointing bit is that you work really hard during the week to get a team and all the detail in the team.”
Friend expects the contrast in the style of play between his side and Munster to make for fascinating viewing come 5:15 PM on Saturday.
For Connacht to win, they need to play their own style of Rugby but also match up to the physical credentials of their Southern rivals, he said.
“Yeah, most people that watch the games closely can see the difference between the two styles. That’s our intention, is to try and play our style of Rugby. I have no doubt that Munster will try and play their style of Rugby.
“As Alex(Wootton) says and I agree with him, it’s a great style to play. It does ask a lot of you but at the same time, it gives you a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunities to express yourself. Our intention is to try and continue to play in our way.”
Meanwhile, winger Alex Wootton is relishing a run of games for the first team after battling through a spate of injuries this season.
The 27-year-old was a key figure for Connacht last season, running in eleven tries in all competitions and impressing with his all round play.
However, injuries have limited the former Munster player’s involvement to just four games – and one try – this season, and Wootton, who also missed a chunk of pre-season, is keen to make up for lost time towards the tail end of this campaign and fully acclimate to the on-field strategies brought by the new coaches, Mossy Lawler, Deawald Senekal and Cullie Tucker.
“Yeah, last season was great,” the English-born speedster said.
“A lot has changed since then, I moved up here. Pre-season was fairly tricky with a niggle in my calf and competition for the back three has really stepped up this season. I’m finding it tough to hit my straps or tough to get back to where I was last season, maybe with some of the new stuff that has been put in and just trying to find grips into that.
“I’m doing all I can to get back up there, but normally with a good pre-season you can get back up there fairly easily, but obviously that was a bit tricky, so I’m just putting the effort in, seeing if I can get back up there.”
The Westerners have continued to play an expensive, quick brand of attacking rugby this season and Wootton – a former Sevens player – admits it is extremely enjoyable for the players to operate in such a system of play.
However, the winger admits that the tweaked game plan is still a work in progress and the players will need to work hard – both in training and in games – to further master it.
The key, he believes, is that the Connacht squad have a common purpose and vision of where they want to go in the future.
“Yeah, it’s one of those game plans that when it’s working, it’s really working,” he said.
“When we’re humming it’s fantastic to watch and it’s about getting that consistency in games and in training where we’re all on the same page and it’s working.
“It’s still a work in progress and we all know where we need to go and that’s something we’ve lacked in the past, not necessarily knowing where we needed to go. We’ve got a clear vision and we’re really happy and we’re all going in the same direction.”