Connacht welcome South African side Emirates Lions to The Sportsground this Saturday for Round 13 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, k/o 7:35pm.

Last weekend was a tough day at the office for Connacht losing to Newcastle in the Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby Andy Friend said the squad left England frustrated with the performance at Kingston Park.

“We reviewed the game and its frustrating that we can’t change it regards the result and mistakes we made”

“A massive opportunity was missed”

This weekend attention turns o the Lions who got their first win since mid December after beating the Dragons and Andy knows that will give them new confidence coming to Galway.

“They won at the weekend which was their first in a few games so that should give them confidence coming here”

“We know they are a tenacious side, they stay in the game and keep fighting till the end”

“I think their game is built on set piece”

“They have a massive scrum with a big forward pack and have a really good maul”

“They have a good attack but our defence is one of the strongest parts of our game so I’m confident that our lads can stop them”

“They might not have the star names like the other South African sides but they have some talented individuals that can hurt teams”

For Connacht the hope of reaching the play-offs are still in sight but Andy Friend know’s they need to get on a winning run from now till the end of the season.

“We can’t afford another slip up in the URC this season as we’ve used up all that”

“We are very aware of how big Saturday’s game is to us”

This will be Andy’s last season involved with Connacht and he spoke about how the time is flying as they get closer to the end of the campaign.

“Time is flying by and its hard to believe that we only have a minimum of six URC games left and a minimum of one Challenge Cup game”

“There’s still a job to do here and its really important that we don’t have any more slip ups”

“Our backs are to the wall and that’s down to us but I’m hoping we finish strong which I believe we can do”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available HERE

With two wins from two in this seasons Challenge Cup Connacht will look to keep their 100% record going this weekend as they face Brive at The Sportsground on Saturday.

Last Saturday saw Connacht beat South African side Sharks in the URC and getting a bonus point win. Speaking ahead of the European tie this weekend Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend spoke about the mood in the camp this week.

“With the conditions we had it was lovely to get the win but the bonus point as the name suggests was a bonus” said Friend

“Its very hard to play rugby in those conditions”

“All the scores were slightly different and as a team we felt there was a lot of areas there that we were really happy with coming off the field”

“Our defence was brilliant with a 91% success rate which is the level we’re at and need to keep at”

“Its a happy camp heading into this weeks game but as always we have things to work on”

With everything to play for in both competitions for Connacht Andy feels now is where the squads depth will be really tested especially with a few injuries mounting up.

“Both competitions are important to us and both are still alive, it is good to be back in the Challenge Cup as we are two from two so we would like to continue that momentum”

“In terms of our squad I think the rotation has worked well for us by keeping players fresh”

“We have a few injuries mounting up so we are probably forced to make a couple of changes”

Brive have been in good form of late with three wins from their last three games but with two defeats in the Challenge Cup already questions will be asked about their commitment and if that seeps into the Connacht players mind that this could be an easy day out.

“I think we faced that last week against the Sharks as there was a lot of talk about them resting some of their big players but at the end of the day it was still a Sharks team and we had to be ready” said Friend

“It will be the same for Brive this weekend, post our last game with them they have beaten Clermont, Lyon and Toulon”

“They’re playing good footie and finding that winning mentality and they will be coming here wanting to turn the table on us”

It was announced this week that Connacht’s Attack and Skills coach Mossy Lawler is heading to Munster at the end of the season. The departure will see two of Connacht’s coaching setup leave with this season being Andy Friend’s final season with the province.

“Mossy has been brilliant during his time here at Connacht” said Friend

“As we know he’s a Limerick man, his family is in Limerick so its great he can be closer to his wife and kids”

“I’m pleased for Mossy that he has this opportunity to move home”

“He will be missed here no doubt about that”

“In terms of the wider coaching ticket there’s a process in place at the moment and I have no doubt it will be a strong coaching ticket next year”

Tickets for Saturday’s game available HERE

Connacht are on the road this week as they travel to France to take on CA Brive this Friday at the Stade Amedee-Domenech in Round 2 of the Challenge Cup, kick-off is 8pm Irish time.

Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend was speaking ahead of the game where he discussed last Saturday’s win over Newcastle Falcons at The Sportsground.

‘It was a game where I thought our tenacity and physicality shone through which was pleasing”

“They were a tough side and you know when you are playing an English side that they are going to be big and physical and Newcastle brought were”

“In the end we were happy with the overall all performance”

The attitude from the players this season have been pleasing for Andy and the coaching team but as a whole the squad are still aiming to play their best game.

“I think with each game that goes by there’s a strong belief in our identity which is that never say die attitude” said Friend.

“I know we still need to be better at finishing off some of those opportunities we get”

“We still haven’t played our best game yet but our forward pack continues to grow, defensively we’ve worked really hard so things are coming together and more consistency is showing”

Last Saturday saw some new faces get game time and ahead of this Friday there’s a chance of seeing more change.

“We have good competition for selection this week”

“It was great seeing the likes of Cathal Forde out at the weekend, Oisin McCormack got his first cap and did very well and no doubt you will see a few different names and faces this weekend too”

This Friday its the challenge of Brive in France. French sides at home are always a tough opposition to face but after their heavy defeat to Cardiff last weekend in Wales could Brive have their minds solely on domestic rugby now?

“It will be interesting to see what team they put out”

“We know on the road French sides tend to take it a bit easier with their selection but at home they are very proud of their record so we want to go over there and play against their best side to test ourselves”

The Connacht team for Friday will be announced this Thursday.

Connacht began their Challenge Cup campaign with a 22-8 win over Newcastle Falcons tonight at The Sportsground with tries from Paul Boyle, Adam Byrne and Diarmuid Kilgallen.

Speaking after the game was Connacht’s Director of Rugby Andy Friend.

“We’re happy with the win”

“It was a pretty physical affair which is always the case against Premiership sides”

“14-8 at half-time and held them scoreless in the second half which was good”

The first half was a scrappy one from Connacht’s point of view but the second half was one which Connacht really took control of which pleased Friend.

“It was pleasing to see how we played in the second half as we talked during the break about using being us as we didn’t really deliver in that first half”

“Our line speed could have been better and defensively we could have been better but in the second half we were better at that”

“I thought across the course of the game our set piece once again did well”

Coming up against any forward pack from the Premiership is going to be a tough one but Andy was pleased with how his side fronted up.

Adam Byrne made his first Connacht start tonight and he made a huge impact with a fantastic try int he first half.

“I thought he did really well tonight” said Friend

“He was great under the high ball and had good defensive reads”

“The try came out of nothing, he was dancing around and then pops out of a gap and scores a brilliant try”

“I’m really pleased for him tonight with his display”

Tonight also saw the introduction of Ballinasloe man Óisín McCormack who made his first cap for Connacht tonight.

“A lot of the home grown were on show tonight”

“I thought Niall Murray was a beauty tonight”

“Caolin got player of the match which was deserved as he was outstanding”

“When Colm Reilly came on for Bladey he played well with a couple of nice line breaks”

“Oisin came on, got a really good steal and didn’t let the occasion get to him as he played”

“It’s great to see all these lads come through”

Next up for Connacht is a trip away to Brive next Friday in France.

Last week Andy Friend announced this will be his final season with Connacht Rugby. Ahead of this Saturday’s massive Interprovincial derby away to Munster in the BKT United Rugby Championship, the Connacht Director of Rugby spoke to media about calling time on his stay out West.

“It’s something me and Willie Ruane (Connacht CEO) have been aware of and others since I signed that last contract”

“Its good to get it out there and have the clarity there for everybody but it doesn’t change my focus or desire to hopefully win as many games as we can between now and the end of the season”

Between now and the 6 Nations, block two sees Connacht play ten games in-a-row in what will be a crucial period for the men in green regards URC and Europe. The last three weeks saw the International sides take over giving Andy, the coaches and players a chance to recharge ahead of this next block.

“Everyone had ten days off after the Ospreys game which I think was needed for coaches and players”

“Now that we have everyone back its all eyes on Munster”

“This is an important ten week block for us”

“We are all very aware of the first block of games we had but I think we’re well positioned for these games going forward”

One of the big questioned asked after coming back from the International break was if Connacht’s Irish players would be available this week?

“We have our Irish players available” said Andy

“From an IRFU point of view, those Irish players are allowed play seven of the next nine games before the 6 Nations kicks off”

November was a good one for Andy Farrell and his team and a lot of impressive displays from the Connacht players involved which Andy Friend spoke about.

“That last penalty which Ross Byrne kicked came from a scrum which Finlay (Bealham) got good dominance and he was heavily involved in winning that penalty”

“I thought all three of the boys (Bundee, Finlay and Mack) played well against Australia and great to see Cian Prendergast get his first cap during that block”

“It was also great to see Caolin Blade, Gavin Thornbury and Dave Heffernan in those camps as well”

Saturday see’s Connacht make the trip to Thomond Park where Munster await, Andy will be hoping his side get off to a good start in this window but knows the challenge that’s coming.

“Yeah its an important game but every game is”

“Munster away at Thomond Park is never an easy task but I thought we were close last year and the previous year we won there”

“You can’t just rock up to Thomond and think you’re going to win, you’ve got to work your backside off and bring an element of physicality along with accuracy in what you are doing”

The Connacht team for Saturday’s game will be named this Friday.

Connacht secured a bonus point win tonight against the Scarlets at The Sportsground in the BKT United Rugby Championship, winning 36-14 with five tries scored.

Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend spoke to media after the game where he was asked about the feeling in the camp and how he felt when they scored the fourth try.

“There was relief in the coaches box when we got that fourth try and I’m sure relief amongst the players”

“Tonight was a good win but we still have more in us”

“We still have areas that we need to tidy up but to get the win and bonus point tonight is something we needed”

Discipline continues to be an issue for the men in green which Andy know’s needs to be sorted quick.

“So many of those penalties are blokes wanting to make a difference but just overstepping the mark and we didn’t need them to because Scarlets weren’t going anywhere”

“I think our defence has been brilliant the last three weeks against three really good sides”

“Three tries conceded in three weeks, trust the D and trust what we’re doing out there because we don’t need to force things”

“We put ourselves in some tricky positions tonight but I think the win will relieve some of that pressure and hopefully we get a have a much better disciplined performance next week”

Up next for Connacht is a trip away to Ospreys where Andy will hope to see his side kick on from tonight.

“Its really important that we kick on from tonight”

“I honestly believe there has been little elements of growth post every game”

“We know its not right yet but we will take the positives”

“Once again our line-out and scrum were so good”

“Our physicality and work rate again, top drawer but we need to be more accurate when in the 22”

This Friday Connacht welcome Welsh side Scarlets to The Sportsground for Round 6 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, (k/o 7.35pm).

Last Friday Connacht suffered defeat to Leinster at home where they will look to bounce back and get a much needed win. Speaking ahead of the game to media was Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend who was asked about his sides performances so far in the URC and what is it exactly that isn’t clicking for the team?

“Our accuracy”

“We had nine entries in the Leinster 22 last Friday with 0 points”

“Frustration is the best word to describe the mood in the camp at the moment because we can feel we’re close but we just haven’t nailed it yet”

While the result wasn’t what Connacht wanted there were plenty of positives to take from it which Andy discussed.

“I did enjoy our physicality and our intent was definitely there against Leinster but we just weren’t clinical enough”

“Again, we got in the Leinster 22 nine times which isn’t easy so we are doing plenty right to get in those positions”

After the performance against Leinster, is there a feeling from the coaches to stick with the same side to see the same group deliver another good performance but this time with a win?

“We have had some very tough games and very physical games, so we have some banged up bodies around the camp” said Friend

“After the Bulls and being in South Africa we freshened the side up for Munster which was very physical and likewise Leinster so I think there’s a need to try and freshen that side up so we have fresh bodies coming in”

The Scarlets come into the game in a similar position to Connacht and Andy know’s his side will have a real challenge on their hands to deal with.

“Its never easy against the Scarlets, they are a very good side with quality internationals”

“They will be tough, a big pack and players who can hurt you in the backline”

“A bit like us they haven’t been firing so far this season but this could be the game for both sides that brings things together”

It was a disappointing night at The Sportsground for Connacht with defeat to Leinster in the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend spoke to the media post match where he was asked where the game was won and lost.

“There was a lot of really good things out there, our physicality, intent, desire to try and play a full 80 minutes, but what’s letting us down at the moment is just not being able to execute when we’re in the 22”

“I think tonight was a pretty even contest with the physicality, we’re proud of our blokes who were immense with their intent to get bodies in front and do damage”

“What we didn’t win tonight was the clinical factor”

“Against a quality side like Leinster you need to take your chances because you know they will take their chances”

It’s not a scoreline any Connacht player or fan will want to look back on with no points scored. Is Connacht’s attack a concern for Andy?

“I think credit has to be given to Leinster because they are a quality side defensively, tonight we didn’t seem to have flow in our attack”

“Its frustrating leaving here because we had chances but just didn’t take them”

“We’re proud of the effort form the boys tonight but not the result”

Next up for Connacht is a home game against the Scarlets where you can get tickets HERE.

“I do see our performances getting better every game” said Friend

“We’ve got two big games coming up and its important we get wins there”

“I think tonight we performed better in a lot of things compared to our win against Munster but we now need to start getting more wins”

 

This Friday Connacht take on Munster in the BKT United Rugby Championship. A first home game of the season and on the new artificial surface at The Sportsground, (k/o 7.35pm).

Last Friday in Pretoria Connacht lost to the Vodacom Bulls which was their third defeat in-a-row, all coming away from home. For Andy Friend and his coaching team Friday’s Interprovincial-derby is one where a win is needed to kick start their season.

“We’re positive coming into this game on Friday but we’re not fools either because we are very aware we haven’t performed anywhere near our best” said Friend

“There’s been three losses against three good teams which is tough but our performances haven’t been where we need them to be”

“We’ve all put our hands up saying we need to be better”

“I see the energy and desire from the boys to get better, so while there is a disappointment in how we’ve started there’s real energy there to write the wrongs”

Munster come to Galway on Friday for what will be a massive Interprovincial-derby one which Andy and the squad are excited about.

“You can’t ask for a bigger game, our first game at home on a brand new pitch in front of family and friends”

“You have two teams at the moment that are searching for form”

“We need to be accurate on Friday and show real fight”

“It will be very emotional no doubt like derby’s are but I think the team that comes out on top will be be the ones who front up and make least mistakes”

One of the big frustrations for Connacht in the opening rounds of the new season has been the stop start nature in which the games have took, 36 penalties in total between Connacht and the Bulls last Friday is not something anyone wants to see. Andy gave is thoughts on the issue in the game.

“I think it is an issue because we are seeing games going on for two hours more and more regularly now”

“Fans don’t come to watch games for these large pauses”

“Players and coaches don’t want these long breaks either and it disrupts the flow of the game so much”

“There’s a few things to tidy up but lets hope this weekend will be the start of faster games and quicker decisions”

The world of rugby will have one eye down under for upcoming games in Queensland which will see new rules trialled out. The changes aim to increase the amount of ball-in-play time.

There will be limits on using the ball in the ruck, setting up for scrums, penalties, conversions and restarts to name a few. It’s an idea Andy likes and is interested to see how it works.

“I go back to my time with the 7s where there was a shot clock which was introduced there”

“If you didn’t kick the goal within a minute you didn’t kick the goal and the same with restarting”

“When players knew the clock was on these things were being done and no issues made”

“Anything that gives more ball-in-play time is a good thing for the game”

Coming into Friday’s game the new pitch at The Sportsground is the big talking point. The redevelopment of the ground is still only in the early stages but the new artificial surface is ready for Friday which Andy can’t wait for.

“We want to be a team that plays fast and this surface allows us to do that”

“Its a massive investment by Connacht Rugby and a brilliant one”

“Lets hope Friday night is the first of many good wins on it”

The Connacht squad for Friday will be announced at 12midday tomorrow.

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