PREVIEW: Connacht V Ospreys

24 November 2021

PREVIEW: Connacht V Ospreys
Head coach Andy Friend believes Connacht are in a good place after the break in their season for the international window.


The Westerners have had over a month off since their last outing, the excellent 36-11 win over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, allowing players and staff alike to rest and recuperate.


Connacht now go into a ten-week block of games, but Friend is confident that his team can begin this period on their best foot when Ospreys visit Galway on Friday, kick-off 19:35


“We’re in a good spot. We all had a break and three good weeks of training. We’ve got most of our internationals back, which is good,” the Australian said.


“We’ve had three really good weeks of continual work and we’re focusing on these first two games. We’ve got ten games, we’ve got Christmas in there, we’ve got New Year in there, we’ve got European games in there, URC games in there, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games.


“All we can do is zone in on these next two weeks, which is Ospreys and Leinster, two Friday night games and we’re looking forward to those.”


Ospreys arrive in Galway with a strong record in their opening five United Rugby Championship games, boasting four wins and a loss.


Friend says that Connacht will need to be at their best at the breakdown to attack the Welshmen, who the former Australian Sevens coach rates among the best teams so far this season, an opinion which reflects their impressive statistics.


“They have been one of the quality sides when you look at their stats across the board, in terms of metres gained up the field, in terms of their turnovers -- they have the least amount of turnovers in the competition. They have a very good disciplinary record and don’t give away many penalties. Access into the game is going to be very tricky. We’ll have a tough night on Friday night, we know that. They’re a formidable outfit.


Elsewhere, Ireland international out-half Jack Carty says he is excited for Connacht’s future after committing himself to the province by signing a new three-year deal.


The Roscommon native, who made his debut for the first team in 2012, is an integral part of head coach Andy Friend’s plans with the Westerners and his retention and commitment to the club is another feather in the cap for the Sportsground team.


While Carty is delighted to spend the next three years with Connacht, his immediate focus remains on Friday’s home clash versus the Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship.


“Being on the periphery of the Irish team, people kind of presumed you would look to move elsewhere, but the main thing for me was I felt I was getting better as a player and better as a leader.


“Then obviously being close to family and stuff like that that you can’t measure if you go somewhere else. I think the change-up we’ve had in the coaching staff this year has massively benefited my game. It was really a clear-cut decision for myself and I am really enjoying where we’re at and where we’re going,” the Irish international said of his decision to extend his contract.


Carty, 29, says that the alterations to Connacht’s game plan -- albeit slight and subtle -- suit his best attributes as a Rugby player. He gave credit to the three new coaches in the Westerners’ backroom team, Mossy Lawler, Dewald Senekal, and Colm Tucker, alongside Friend and Pete Wilkins, for their role in the team's growth.


“Yeah, that’s how I would have played Rugby growing up, in terms of the different coaches with Pat(Lam), KK(Kieran Keane) and Friendy’s(Andy Friend) first couple of years. They were different, but quite similar with the role the 10 played.


“It was a lot of facilitating how the shape worked, but now I feel I can get my hands on the ball and ask questions of defenders while also having the ability to look for kick space, which is something we’ve probably seen in the last few years.


“The element of the running game is definitely something I have enjoyed and carrying the ball to the line and putting players through holes. I feel like I have a freedom that may not have had before.”