By John O’Sullivan

 

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to bring an aggressive line speed and accurate kicking game in order to beat the Ospreys this coming Sunday in the Guinness PRO14.

 

Originally scheduled for November, the clash with the Welshmen will now take place at 3 pM on Sunday at the Sportsground, and Friend, whose team sit second in conference B,  is wary of the offensive threat of the Welsh region.

 

Praising the impact the Ospreys’ coach, Toby Booth, has had on their attack, the Australian believes that the Westerners will have to counteract their potent attacking game with strong defensive line speed.

 

”That line speed for us is really important,” Friend said.

 

“They do have a, with Toby Booth coming in this year, healthy attack. Toby comes from Quins(Harlequins) and London Irish and Bath and I have worked against Toby many years ago and you know he wants to throw that ball around. They’re trying to play, so that line speed is important to us.

 

The head coach also confirmed that Connacht will be looking to get the upper hand at the set-piece, highlighting the excellent work forwards coach Jimmy Duffy has done with the pack and, in particular, the defensive line out and how the Westerners can use it as an attacking weapon.

 

“The other important part to us is the way we kick,” the former Australian sevens coach said.

 

“They have got a pretty dangerous back three, so we reckon an area we’ll be able to get an advantage over them is our line out. Our line out defence has been superb this year, so we won’t be afraid to put the ball off the field,  rather than give it to their back three, and try to challenge their line out from there.”

 

Friend, meanwhile, said that the Connacht squad have benefited from a week off. After narrowly falling to a defeat to Munster two weekends ago, the Sportsgrond team didn’t have a game last weekend and the head coach is optimistic that they can utilize this freshness in the clash with the Ospreys.

 

“I said to a few of the boys that I saw this morning, ‘as much as I like you blokes, it was nice not seeing you for a week’,” the Canberra native joked.

 

”It was the break we probably all needed. I’m not going to say we had a break because there’s still a lot going on, but a change in routine. People bounced back in this morning and there’s a spring in the step and we’re looking forward to what this weekend brings us.”

 

Elsewhere, second row Ultan Dillane says he is enjoying his rugby and he is concentrating on a strong end to the season with Connacht.

 

The 27-year-old has performed consistently for the Westerners’ this season and has been part of the Irish international squad, where he brought his cap total up to 17.

 

But the Kerry native isn’t focusing on the upcoming Six Nations squad and is keeping his mind on playing as well as he can for the western province, which, he is confident, will lead to him being included in more national squads.

 

“I’m trying to keep my head with Connacht and I think the way it is is if you play well enough then you’ll get your merit after that,” the Connacht academy graduate said.

 

“You can’t be thinking too far ahead, cause that’s what will really wreck you if things don’t go well. I am kinda more focused on what’s in front of me right now and that’s the Ospreys this weekend.”

 

Dillane also praised the leadership qualities of the squad and said that he has been impressed with how the players have dealt with the adversity brought on by covid, especially with the rescheduling of games.

 

Several players, including Eoghan Masterson, Quinn Roux and Paul Boyle, have lead the Westerners out as captain this season and the Irish international feels that the squad, as a whole, have learned from this.

 

“We’ve had numerous different captains this year and everyone has learned a little bit from that. Everyone has had a similar message like that it’s just being moment focused. There are so many leaders in this squad and I feel we don’t panic over anything anymore, because of how weird the year has been and it is kinda refreshing as well.”

 

 

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