Sunday 22 April 2018

Connacht can reach last eight, insists O'Connor

Johnny O'Connor believes Connacht should aim big and sees no reason why they can't advance to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.

This is only Connacht's second season in the competition, but experienced flanker O'Connor is confident that they can back up their first away win in the competition -- at Zebre last weekend -- by repeating their memorable victory over Harlequins at the Sportsground on Saturday.

"We are in a better place for the Heineken Cup this year, we are a better team," insisted O'Connor.

"You have got to dream big and think big in anything you do. I can't see any reason why we can't think we can't get out of our group.

"We improved last year. I know we lost a lot of games, but a lot of them were by a point here or there. This year we are just in a better place."

The 32-year-old Galway native believes that the low turnover in players this summer, the signing of a few key men and the emergence of some serious young talent, leaves Connacht in a much stronger position this year.

"The experience we brought in, Nathan White and Dan Parks... they are guys who have played the game at a particularly high level," said O'Connor.

"We have some serious talent coming through, guys like Robbie Henshaw, Kieron Marmion and Denis Buckley, to mention just a few. We are in a lot better position than last year -- last year was such a big change and we were trying to find our feet. This year feels a bit more stable," he said.

O'Connor has enjoyed plenty of battles with Quins over the years with Connacht and Wasps and knows they are gunning for revenge, having been knocked out of the competition in January at the Sportsground when Connacht ended a 14-match losing run with a memorable 9-8 win.

"I sure they'll carry a bit of that with them into this game," he said.

Scarlets targeting O'Driscoll -- Easterby

"Brian still has a real appetite for the game. He's competitive and is someone they look to lead them by example. Leo Cullen is the Leinster captain, but where Brian leads others will follow. He will have a huge influence on their game on Saturday."

The Scarlets must sweat over the availability of winger Morgan Stoddart, who faces a disciplinary hearing today after receiving two yellow cards in their hammering at Clermont last weekend.

Easterby is not ruling out any of the eight players carrying injuries in his squad. Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams are among those fighting to be fit.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport