Friday 20 April 2018

McCartney fired up for Italian job

Connacht's Tom McCartney. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Connacht's Tom McCartney. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

John Fallon

The trips to Italy tend to be fairly arduous affairs for Connacht but the long treks have been fruitful, especially to Parma to take on Zebre.

And hooker Tom McCartney, now in his second season after following Pat Lam from Auckland Blues, said the games in Italy can also be hugely beneficial in team bonding.

The Connacht squad travelled to Dublin last night and will fly on to Italy today and it will be Sunday evening before they get home.

And while nothing will ever equal their marathon trip to Siberia earlier this season, the 30-year-old McCartney said the Italy journeys can be great for team bonding.

“It is a long time away but it’s professional rugby you are going to have away games. They are really good for team bonding, you spend a lot of time together.

“Some of those trips are very memorable when you go away to a hard place to win like that. If you do get the result then those are some of the things you look on at the end of the season that you would be very proud of,” said McCartney.

Connacht will bid to main their 100pc record over Zebre, which includes seven league wins and four in the Heineken Cup. Three of those league wins have been in Parma, and all have been high-scoring affairs.

Connacht won 30-17 there three seasons ago and followed it up with a 27-19 success, before scoring a very convincing 40-10 win there last season.

That’s not Connacht’s biggest win over Zebre in the league.

That came at the Sportsground last season when Lam’s men romped home 43-3.

They beat the Italians 34-15 there earlier this season, while the opening two home wins over Zebre were tighter, winning 23-19 in 2012-’13 and 25-16 in the following campaign.

All four meetings in Europe also ended in Connacht victories. Connacht won the home match in 2012-’13 by 25-20, having won the away tie 19-10. They met again the following season in the Heineken Cup, with Connacht winning 33-6 in Italy and following it up with a 20-3 victory in the Sportsground.

“We are expecting them to have a good few of their internationals back,” added McCartney, who said they would be taking nothing for granted despite the great run of results.

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