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A victory in France is vital to stop the rot

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Nathan White has missed vital game time prior to the Six Nations, but if he can get back now and play well, he can push Marty Moore and Mike Ross all the way for the tighthead slot in Joe Schmidt’s team

Nathan White has missed vital game time prior to the Six Nations, but if he can get back now and play well, he can push Marty Moore and Mike Ross all the way for the tighthead slot in Joe Schmidt’s team

SPORTSFILE

Nathan White has missed vital game time prior to the Six Nations, but if he can get back now and play well, he can push Marty Moore and Mike Ross all the way for the tighthead slot in Joe Schmidt’s team

The most important thing for Connacht this weekend is that they pick up a win in La Rochelle - there is nothing worse than sitting on your hands for a couple of weeks on the back of a few disappointing losses.

Saying all that there was so much to admire from the performance against Exeter, they were simply beaten by the better team on the day.

Overall the error count was not astronomical, but the number of turnovers that Exeter forced meant that Pat Lam's game-plan fell apart. They executed on the attacking side with a four-try bonus point, but Exeter's power blasted them away up front.

Some of the tries Connacht got were fantastic and the backs were untouchable at times, but the pack just weren't at the races. Exeter were massive and they gave what you could only call an agricultural performance: they steam-rolled Connacht.

Connacht did a lot of things right but you can't compete with an outfit that are so big and physical when you don't have a scrum to work with. The lineout was dominant, but the scrum failed miserably. From that perspective it's great to have Nathan White nearing inclusion once more.

He played for the Eagles last week and if he can come back in and just hold up the scrum to give a platform to launch the backs, then the wins will start again before too long.

He has missed vital game time prior to the Six Nations, but if he can get back now, play well tomorrow and again for the Ireland Wolfhounds, I don't see why he can't push Marty Moore and Mike Ross all the way for the tighthead slot in Joe Schmidt's team.

The main disappointment from the loss to Exeter was the fact that the pack got beaten up a bit and that needs to be addressed. To have lost four of our last five is a worry and thankfully the lads picked up the win against Munster on New Year's Day or there could have been a mini-crisis in confidence.

From a positive point of view you don't need to look any further than Matt Healy and his two tries. His overall performance was phenomenal, and he could be giving Joe Schmidt a few things to ponder.

Sidestep

His style of play is very similar to Dave Kearney. They're well-built wingers who have plenty of speed, but at times I'd like to see him ignore the sidestep and take the direct rout to the try line.

His speed makes him a threat no matter where he is on the pitch. On the opposite wing Danie Poolman had another good game, but you had to feel for him when threw that intercept pass for the try. It was his one loose moment.

I'm sure Pat and Dan McFarland will dissect the performance at length, but at times it appeared that they threw the ball around a bit too much. There is a time and a place for it and not identifying that time can cost you dearly.

There should have been two intercepts really, and John Muldoon got away with a poor pass as their second-row fell head over heels on the way to the line.

We got the bonus point but that isn't what anyone wanted from the game. It leaves Connacht in with a chance but let's not forget what the targets are this season.

Pat always talked about the 'fortress Sportsground' and that was achieved with the long unbeaten run - I'm sure that will come back with time.

The top six Pro12 spot was the main aim and they are on course for that if they can hold things together after the break, which I definitely think they will.

Qualification from the pool was also mentioned, but nobody ever said anything about going any further than that. I think it could end up being more of a distraction than anything, so I would not be too upset if they didn't qualify. But I think a win is still vital for the morale around the club.

Connacht hammered La Rochelle earlier this season but the unpredictability of the French means they could be a more difficult proposition at home.

All the guys need to worry about is going out and focusing on getting the four points. A second win over in France would be a real achievement, and would send everyone off on their break with a positive feeling. A win is a must, anything else is a plus.

Irish Independent