PREVIEW: Leinster V Connacht

31 December 2020

PREVIEW: Leinster V Connacht
By John O’Sullivan 


Head coach Andy Friend says that dominance in tackles and making the most of attacking opportunities will be key for Connacht in Saturday's 7:35 PM kick off Guinness PRO14 interprovincial clash away to Leinster. 


After a 32-19 reversal at home to Ulster last time out, the Westerners will look to make amends against the defending champions in the second of the Christmas interprovincials.


Friend said that Connacht’s 33-29 defeat to the eastern province in December 2018 -- a game in which the Sportsground men lead 29-12 with 11 minutes remaining -- gives his squad belief that they can compete with, and defeat, Leinster. 


Executing the basics of the game well, in a manner similar to their interprovincial rivals, is, according to the Canberra native, will be the bedrock of any Connacht win in Dublin.


“First and foremost, you have to try and get your tackle right,” the Australian said of Connacht’s defensive approach for the game in the Irish capital. 


“You have to make sure that when you go in to tackle that your body is in the right position and that you are trying to make the most dominant tackle you can. That’s where they get their nose through just slightly and then they’re off. 


“That’s no big secret, there’s nothing special to that. Just with every tackle you make, get yourself in the best position to make the most dominant tackle you can. 


“Secondly, from an attack point of view, we are going to try a couple of things a little different,” the former Australia Sevens coach said of the Westerners attacking strategy for the derby at the RDS. 


“We need to be adaptable, but at the same time, we need to make sure that when those key opportunities and moments come that we’re good enough to take them because you’re not going to get many against Leinster. I don’t see it as a magic formula. They’re(Leinster) very good at doing the basics really well and they tend to do them better than every team they play. 


“So, it’s for the teams that can rock up there with a gameplan -- which we will have -- but also it’s about being as brilliant  at the basics as we can and putting ourselves in the best position to win it.”


Meanwhile, captain Jarrad Butler says that Connacht will need to bring an 80-minute performance against the unbeaten Leinster to earn a win on Saturday. 


Referencing the December 2018 defeat away to Leinster -- where the Sportsground team were in front as late as the 69th minute -- Butler is confident the western province can cause Leo Cullen’s team issues but they cannot afford to play in fits and starts and must be consistent across the game as a whole. 


“They’re an extremely good team and anything less than an 80-minute performance and you’re not going to be able to beat Leinster. We’ve seen it before. We’ve been over there and played 69 minutes of good footy and not come away with a win,” the Australian said. 


“And against Ulster, we played well for 40 minutes. It’s about consistency, it’s about taking the game to Leinster. They are a very good team when they have things on their terms and if you’re going to let them play and just try and counter everything then you’re going to have a hard day at the office. 


“Going up there and playing with confidence is going to be really important. Playing on top of them and trying to be aggressive because -- like I said -- you see so many teams go up there and try and weather the storm, but it’s an 80-minute storm if you let it be.”


Despite three consecutive defeats in two competitions for Connacht, the 29-year-old says that he -- as well as the other squad members -- expect a bounce back and to bring an increased level of aggression and energy for a game that will require no extra motivation.


Being proactive in attack and looking to make things happen, as opposed to just attempting to shackle Leinster, is an approach Butler says Connacht will take and he is confident that they can successfully pull it off. 


“You got to go there and throw caution to the wind and try things because you know that you can’t play conservative. You have to go for it and try things. We’ve lost the last three weeks in a row, so I expect -- and so the group as a whole -- us to bounce back and bring some energy. If you can’t get up for an Interpro versus Leinster then what can you get up for?”