Sport Connacht Rugby

Thursday 27 October 2016

Toulouse are there for the taking

Lam's men can prevail by attacking space rather than trying to run over French giants

Johnny O'Connor

Published 14/10/2016 | 02:30

Cian Kelleher showed what a great finisher he is in last week’s win over Ulster. Picture: Sportsfile
Cian Kelleher showed what a great finisher he is in last week’s win over Ulster. Picture: Sportsfile

Last Friday's game at the Sportsground was great to watch, as both sides just threw it around and played at a high tempo. Ulster talked about not playing well, but they weren't allowed to play well. Connacht were so aggressive around the ruck and breakdown area.

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Connacht ran away with the game at one stage, but some system errors and the kicking strategy let them down from time to time. The players make those calls on the pitch and if it goes wrong sometimes that's okay.

But it's so exciting to watch - especially in comparison to the dour Leinster and Munster game. That just didn't have a spark. It was a physical battle but wasn't great to watch.


More importantly, Connacht are back, that's the exciting thing, although they were never gone that far.

They didn't start the season well, but it's all about where you are at the business end, and Connacht have put themselves in the perfect position going into the Toulouse game.

Cian Kelleher had a good game; he is a really good signing and is showing what a great finisher he is. It's great to have that in your squad and it's a good sign that Connacht can attract that talent.

The biggest thing is the players that Connacht are putting together - they come in and do an incredible job, as Caolin Blade did at the weekend, as Craig Ronaldson did. Nothing changes, these guys come in and look like world beaters.

All of that shows Connacht are a well-coached side and are not afraid to try things. The players are allowed to fail and not be treated like a failure.

That means players can try things and not be looking over their shoulder to see is Pat Lam happy.

If things go wrong and you were trying to do them within the system then that's okay, as long as you were going about it the right way. You are not a terrible rugby player if you make one mistake, and that creates a positive atmosphere.

Dave Heffernan is another example of guy who came in from the dark - Tom McCartney is the regular No 2, but now it looks like he has some real competition for that jersey.

Heffernan has been around Connacht for a while, but he seems to have upped it massively and his skill-set has really improved.

It will be interesting to see how he does against the French, because with McCartney out now until November, he has real chance to stake a claim.

A big test awaits him again this weekend: Toulouse are going to be massive and they will look to hit Connacht hard in the set-piece - especially if Connacht put Conor Carey at tighthead. He's a young guy and sometimes referees go with the experienced prop in the 50-50 calls at scrum-time.

Andrew Browne will be a key figure this weekend, and he will provide that vital link that spreads the ball out wide or trucks it up the middle.

He is the only player who has shown that he can fill the gap left by Aly Muldowney, and hopefully he can stay fit now too.

If Connacht want to utilise that midfield pod, then the same level of accuracy and aggression and more will be needed around the breakdown this weekend.

Against Ulster they were completely dominant against a side that usually try to bully you off the ball.

A lot of pundits were saying that Ulster just had a bad day, but they were forced into those mistakes.


The Ulster players were out-fought in the breakdown and that gave Connacht the fast ball they thrive off.

It was no coincidence that Jack Carty has his best game this season. He will be a much better player when he gets that service too, as was Blade because he got more protection.

Ultimately Connacht will look to attack the space this weekend, and they won't be foolish enough to try and run over a big and physical Toulouse side.

The French will come to the Sportsground and try and entice Connacht into a battle up front, but Connacht must use their heads - and the game is there for the taking.

Irish Independent

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