Sport Rugby

Thursday 23 March 2017

Elwood hoping bruised troops can shake off knocks in time for Cardiff test

Elwood: Dealing with problems
Elwood: Dealing with problems

Hugh Farrelly

CONNACHT take their battered squad to Wales tomorrow for Thursday's clash against the Blues, with coach Eric Elwood banking on key players recovering from knocks picked up in Saturday's bruising 15-15 draw with Ulster.

Full-back Gavin Duffy faces a scan on his back this morning, with winger Troy Nathan also bidding to recover from a back injury and centre Keith Matthews struggling with a dead leg.

Elwood said his forwards are "sore, but should be alright", although he admitted there was a chance of flanker Johnny O'Connor being called up if necessary.

The coach has expressed his disappointment at Connacht being required to travel to Wales so soon after their Magners League derby in Galway, particularly as they cannot get accommodation in Cardiff due to the Ryder Cup and have been forced to stay in Swansea, 70km from the Welsh capital.

However, the coach said they did not request a postponement due to fears that it could lead to an away-fixtures backlog at the end of the season.

"We play Cardiff in our final home match in April before heading to Ulster and Munster, so a reversal could have seen us finish with three away games," he said. "We will just deal with it this week."

Ulster have their injury concerns also, with coach Brian McLaughlin waiting on updates for flanker Stephen Ferris and prop BJ Botha.

Ferris left the field after 10 minutes last weekend after injuring his shoulder girdle. He went for a scan yesterday to determine the damage, while Botha hurt his wrist, although initial examinations revealed ligament damage rather than a break.

However, this could still rule the prop out of Friday's meeting with Glasgow at Ravenhill and, with Declan Fitzpatrick and Adam Macklin still out injured, it leaves McLaughlin short in the front row.

Meanwhile, Toulouse's Frederic Michalak, a three-time Heineken Cup winner, says the Top 14 side are determined to retain their title when the competition gets going next week -- when the champions open their defence against Wasps.

"We want to win again," said Michalak yesterday. "We always leave the past behind and treat every year as a new year."

Irish Independent

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