Friday 22 September 2017

Jackman aims to follow Connacht's recipe for pro14 success

Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Former Connacht hooker Bernard Jackman welcomes his old team to Rodney Parade believing his Dragons side can emulate the fairytale success of the Irish province.

Connacht emerged from the verge of extinction more than a decade ago to lift the Guinness PRO12 championship two seasons back and, despite their status as perennial Welsh also-rans, the former international sees no reason why his side cannot dream of matching their feats.

"You saw that in the last four or five years, the IRFU subtly started to offer them more supports - laptops, strength & conditioning, travel plans and obviously then more coaches.

"From a situation where there were only really two coaches, Pat Lam suddenly had a defence coach, skills coach and backs coach and that allowed him to develop the bigger picture.

"We're trying to do something similar here now with the backing of the union and we are making sure players have support structures. Pat also built a culture but first he had a support structure in terms of staff, then the game-plan and also some smart recruits.

"Look at the foreign players, Tom McCartney and Bundee Aki were a huge leap in calibre then before and they then brought in guys like Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy from the club game.

"I need to do that here. Our academy has been under-funded for so long we have lost to the other regions so I don't have enough at the moment.

"The aim long-term is to have the best 18-year-olds in Gwent to play for us and I'm out looking at clubs, looking for a Welsh Matt Healy who could be ready to play now."

Tonight should give both sides a better flavour of where they stand, albeit Connacht coach Kieran Keane has weakened his side with seven switches.

Dragons have experience in Gavin Henson at out-half and a cutting edge out wide in Zane Kirchner and Ashton Hewitt while newly-capped Ollie Griffiths makes his seasonal debut. But Connacht should have too much know-how despite the raft of changes, five of them in the pack.

Verdict: Connacht

Dragons - Z Kirchner; A Hewitt, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; G Henson, S Pretorius; B Harris, E Dee, L Brown; R Landman, C Hill (capt); H Keddie, O Griffiths, J Benjamin. Reps: G Ellis, T Davies, L Fairbrother, M Screech, R Blake, O Leonard, D Jones, J Rosser.

Connacht - T O'Halloran; D Leader, T Farrell, B Aki, R Scholes; J Carty, C Blade; D Coulson, T McCartney, C Carey, Q Roux, J Cannon; E Masterson, J Heenan, J Muldoon (capt). Reps: D Heffernan, P McCabe, D Robertson-McCoy, G Thornbury, J Butler, K Marmion, S Crosbie, E Griffin.

Ref - Quinten Immelman (South Africa).

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