Friday 24 January 2020

Connacht's Butler has his sights set on winning return to Ravenhill

Butler:
Butler: "We know these games mean a lot to the fans and also to players who are playing against guys they grew up with or are competing with for the national spots as well." Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

A dip in the sea at Blackrock in Salthill was as much as Connacht skipper Jarrad Butler was planning for Christmas but even that was going by the wayside after he missed the clash with Munster with a bout of illness.

This is his third Christmas in Galway but with a string of Irish derbies to contend with it, the festive celebrations don't get a look-in and Butler is prepared to accept that as part and parcel of the life of a professional player.

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Of course, Christmas weather back home in New Zealand, where he lived until he was 13, and on the Gold Coast where he represented Australia at schools and U-20 levels, is very different to what comes in off the Atlantic in Galway.

"You don't really get a chance to celebrate Christmas that much, not with games right around it but we enjoy this time of year at the same time. We know these games mean a lot to the fans and also to players who are playing against guys they grew up with or are competing with for the national spots as well."

Barriers

Connacht have overcome many barriers in recent seasons and beating Ulster 22-15 - their first win in Belfast since 1960 - in October, 2018 was certainly sweet.

"It was awesome. It was so much fun to go up there and perform well. Ulster have been flying it at the moment and playing really good footie.

"They have been finding ways to win. They are winning really strong games away and at home. There is no question it is going to be a massive test.

"We are the last ones to have beaten them at home. I am sure Dan McFarland will remind them of that a couple of times as well. That's fine by us, I am really looking forward to that one. There is a huge opportunity for us there. We will definitely try and put out a big performance there," added the 28-year-old.

Connacht were brought down to earth when they returned to Belfast in May for the PRO14 quarter-finals and were knocked out, 21-13.

"They are brimming with confidence at the moment. Their back-row is functioning really well. Their nine, John Cooney, is functioning really well, probably the best in the country at the moment. He had left Connacht by the time I got here but I've spoken to him a few times. He is really nice guy and he is playing really good footie.

"We are not going up there with any idea that it is going to be an easy ride by any means. We know what to expect," added Butler.

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