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Early signs for Friend's reign are positive - but Warriors are massive test


Andy Friend keeping a watchful eye on his new charges during training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Friend keeping a watchful eye on his new charges during training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Friend keeping a watchful eye on his new charges during training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Glasgow Warriors will be a huge test after Connacht's brilliant pre-season. But a win here would be a perfect start to Andy Friend's reign, and the crazy ten-week fixture schedule.

You can go through a season and have no injuries or have a plethora of them, and the latter is the real danger when the games come thick and fast. It can upset the whole momentum of the team. 

When you look at Charles Piutau who signed for Bristol from Ulster during the summer; he is gone for a considerable period with an arm injury and their season hasn't even started. 

Looking at the Connacht squad, they need to have depth. Connacht have signed some great players in David Horwitz and Kyle Godwin, Robin Copeland and Colby Fainga'a. But by the time they get stuck in you don't know what might happen. 

You need everyone on fire. The players that come in must play well but it's important you stay away from injuries as much as possible. The big thing from Connacht's point of view is to get over last year. 

Whatever happened there with Kieran Keane, it just didn't work out. The appointment of Friend came out of nowhere, but from what I have heard it is a very happy camp at the Sportsground, presently.

Momentum The lads really seem to have bought into it. The three pre-season games, even though you can't and shouldn't look into them too much, we all saw what happened when Connacht didn't have a good pre-season last year and it's different now. Hopefully this pre-season can give them momentum ahead of Glasgow. 

John Muldoon's presence is gone. And despite the signing of Fainga'a and Copeland, there are big boots to fill without him there to rely on. The way Muldoon conducted himself in training and his leadership, his dedication and application was a huge example for everyone. 

But time moves on and you wish Muldoon the best of luck at Bristol. It's a big hole to fill, but hopefully Copeland will have a big run. Of all of the signings, he is the one you have to watch the most. He is the one player that really stands out for me. He's an abrasive players that leads from the front. We will wait and see how he settles into the shirt.

The out-half position might look short on numbers again this term, but I'm a big Jack Carty fan. Over the last couple of years he has never had a chance to relax into that slot. He seems to be constantly under pressure and looking over his shoulder. 

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When you are playing at ten the last thing you want to be is to be up tight and worrying about it. There has always been someone new in: Marnitz Boschoff, then Andrew Deegan and now David Horwitz. 

He has never really got a chance to move forward and take control. Two of them have come and gone and only put pressure on Jack.

But Horwitz will hopefully offer more, and both players can live with the pressure and build from there. 

Competition is great. I would like to see Carty getting five or six games on the bounce but he just hasn't been given the opportunity yet. Every game is a pressure match for him. I just hope from his point of view that he gets a fair run at it. Let's see what happens if it's going to work. 

This new guy coming in, we don't know too much about him. He can play ten and 12 but hopefully he can put a bit of pressure on again. If you have two out-halves playing well then everyone's happy. 

By all accounts against Wasps Connacht looked right back to their best. The English didn't travel fully loaded but Connacht could only beat what was in front of them and they played some lovely running rugby. 

The Bristol game was a totally different animal, an attritional game. But they came out of that on the right side of the result again. Bristol would have been desperate to get a big win heading into their Premiership derby clash with Bath, but Connacht went there and won. 

Dipped Last year we were very critical of the basic skills. The levels there dipped at the latter end of Pat Lam's tenure, and for all of Keane's term in charge. But you'd hope that the skills and decision-making can be recovered. 

Friend likes a skills-orientated, fast game. We will see how that fares against Glasgow, who play a similar style. There is usually very little between the teams and they have met at this stage of the season in the Sportsground for a few years running now. 

A good start is crucial. Connacht are home to Glasgow and Zebre, and then they are away to Edinburgh. If they could win the first two games it would give them great confidence before they hit the road to Scotland. And then they have Scarlets and Leinster at home. That's a fairly hefty first five games and we will know a lot by the time September is over.

In a World Cup year, despite Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion's absence outside of the big games, Connacht could have a well-stocked squad to choose from.

You expect the other PRO14 teams to have to rest players more often and it presents an opportunity. It could be a massive season, and it all begins in Galway tomorrow.

A win would be the ideal start for the new coach, but this is a tough test first up.

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