Sunday 25 March 2018

Northampton can rise above Thomond's 'sea of red', insists Best Injury boost for Connacht

Hugh Farrelly

NORTHAMPTON flanker Neil Best has dismissed Thomond Park's intimidating reputation ahead of their Heineken Cup quarter-final meeting with Munster on Saturday.

Munster have only lost one Heineken Cup match at their Limerick stronghold -- a Pool defeat to Leicester in 2007 when they were already qualified -- but Best, who, along with team-mate Roger Wilson, knows the ground well from his time with Ulster, says the Saints are drawing confidence from their January trip to Thomond when they were narrowly beaten by Tony McGahan's side.

"Roger and I have played there numerous times and I know none of our players will be daunted by going there in the quarter-finals," said Best, who is joining Worcester next season.


"That last match gave us a lot of confidence and that is very encouraging as we prepare to go back for a huge game. The big thing is that we believe in ourselves wherever we are playing and know we could have won that match at Thomond in January.

"If I remember correctly the pivotal period was when Dylan (Hartley) charged down a box kick and we had to score from a scrum on their line.

"However, it ended up with them clearing their line and holding on for the win. The atmosphere and hype surrounding matches at Thomond, the sea of red supporters and everyone talking about the game means it is just great to be part of it all and play at the ground.

"Our travelling support is superb, but I am not bothered if I am playing in front of one man in a flat cap with his dog or 80,000. It is going to be a very difficult encounter but we are also a good team."

Injury boost for Connacht

Connacht have received a huge boost with five players doubtful through injury named in a 26-man squad for Saturday's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bourgoin.

And coach Michael Bradley is confident that the five -- skipper John Muldoon, centres Niva Ta'auso and Keith Matthews, prop Robbie Morris and No 8 George Naoupu -- will be available for Saturday's clash with the French side at the Sportsground.

However, flanker Ray Ofisa (vertigo) and winger Liam Bibo (calf) have been ruled out of the encounter.

"We will fitness test the five lads but we are confident they will be okay and that will be a big boost," he said.

Irish Independent

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