Saturday 27 May 2017

Elwood relishing chance to lock horns with pal O'Shea

CONNACHT coach Eric Elwood will have to put his friendship with Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea to one side when the sides meet at the Stoop on Sunday, writes Donnchadh Boyle.

The Challenge Cup clash between the pair offers both sides the chance to wrest control of Pool One as each of the four teams involved has just one win.

And Elwood knows that his side face a difficult task, particularly after having no match last weekend -- the Magners League game against Aironi was cancelled due to the weather.

"Conor and I played together at club level for Lansdowne and also for Ireland so I guess we know each other inside out," said Elwood.

"He was a great professional as a player and a great student and analyst of the game who understands the sport from top to bottom."

Harlequins' form has been poor -- they have lost four games on the bounce since beating Bayonne in this competition in round two.

Connacht's announcement regarding the future of rugby in the province last weekend underlined the importance of Heineken Cup rugby to them. It would appear that the Magners League offers the most viable route into that competition, but Elwood insists the experience in this competition will serve them well.

"Obviously we would far preferred to have had the game against Aironi go ahead because it was an important game for us to try and maintain the performance levels we had produced against the Ospreys and Edinburgh in our last two matches," said the Connacht coach.

"The performances in both those games were right up there -- but we are simply not winning matches we really could win.

"In the nine Magners League matches we have played so far we genuinely could and should have won three of the ones we lost.

"We are not closing out tight games and that is something we must get right because that would then generate confidence in the team for the rest of the season."

Irish Independent

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