PREVIEW: Edinburgh Rugby V Connacht Rugby

02 March 2022

PREVIEW: Edinburgh Rugby V Connacht Rugby
Senior coach Pete Wilkins praised the mentality of the Connacht squad after last weekend’s win over the DHL Stormers in the United Rugby Championship and ahead of Friday evening’s league trip to Edinburgh, kick-off 7:35 PM. 


The host's 19-17 win – which was secured after trailing 17-7 early in the second half – was their second league win in succession and also the second game on the spin where they managed to be victorious after coming from behind. 


Wilkins believes that the Sportsground teams’ ability to back themselves and their processes, even when losing, is evidence of the growth and maturation of the squad.


“I think it was important for us to get the win from coming from behind,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 


“It was a tight game that we came out on the right side of. It was only a few weeks ago that we were sitting here, lamenting some of those tight losses. 


“So I think the fact that two weeks in a row, from slightly different scenarios, that we have been able to see out two tight games is really important to show that there is growth in this team going on all the time.”


Wilkins expects an entertaining game against a quality Edinburgh side who sit fifth in the United Rugby Championship(URC) table, especially given the artificial surface at the Scots’ stadium.


“It is built for fast rugby,” he said of Edinburgh’s pitch at the DAM Health Stadium. 


“The players are excited about playing on it and excited, in the context of this weekend, of us being able to play on a fast pitch and getting our game on that kind of surface. But also the feeling of what might come for us down the tracks(with the stadium redevelopment).


“We have proved we can play decent rugby in any kind of conditions, but going to what is hopefully a dry Edinburgh with a decent 4G pitch, we’ll get a chance to do that.”


Meanwhile, back row Cian Prendergast praised the work of the Connacht pack in last weekend’s victory over the DHL Stormers. 


The visitors' pack boasted an array of talented players, including Springbok international Steven Kitshoff at loose-head prop, but the home teams set-piece – with Tietie Tuimauga and Leva Fifita impressive – more than held its own. 


The Connacht forwards, Prendergast believes, playing so well was one of the factors that lead to their 19-17 win over the visiting South Africans. 


“Ultimately, especially our scrum, we thought it would be a big focus area for them, considering they have one of the – if not the – best loosehead props in the world, but we stood up to that challenge and it was a real positive for us as a group,” the 22-year-old said. 


Prendergast was recently selected in the Irish training camp for the ongoing Six Nations as a “development” player. 


The Kildare native loved the experience, but he knows that his form with his club team will dictate whether he gets back into the national team reckoning and that remains his priority. 


“It was an incredible experience,” he said. 


“I got to pick the brains of people in my position and see how they prepare for test matches and see what they do from week to week, how they prep for training, how they train, and how they conduct themselves. 


“It was a really good experience and I learned a lot from it.”


The blindside flanker expects a physical encounter on Friday against Edinburgh, a team whose artificial surfaced home pitch also lends itself to a quicker style of rugby, as Wilkins previously mentioned. 


Prendergast also believes that Connacht’s attack will need to be at its best in order to win, given the impressive defence of the Scottish team, but says his team's chances of a win will be bolstered if they can retain the kind of discipline they showed in last weekend’s win. 


“Edinburgh are a really well-drilled side and they have a new coaching ticket now. They have a really structured defence and are really well-disciplined and they have an electric attack, if you give them space. 


“We have reviewed that. They have very powerful players in the back three, big physical backs, a good line out, they’re a good mauling side, they’re quite good in their 22 attack, which is an area for us to try and not give them access to. 


“It’s about discipline again, trying to build on what we did against The Stormers, in terms of how we gave away no offside penalties or penalties around the ruck, which is a huge one for us. 


“We’re just looking to build on that again and not give away those “red” penalties that Friendy calls them, the avoidable ones that are more effort ones than anything else.”