Muldoon eyes early momentum
Connacht captain John Muldoon says that an explosive start to the new season is vital as five of their opening Guinness Pro12 games are at home.
And with most other clubs losing more players to World Cup duty, the long-serving Muldoon said they need to chalk up the points early in the season if they are to achieve their primary aim of European Champions Cup rugby next season.
Connacht have never qualified for Europe's premier competition off their own steam but are determined to do that this season, either by finishing in the top six or winning the European Challenge Cup.
Last season Connacht were in the top half most of the season but finished seventh and then were pipped in extra-time away to Gloucester in a thrilling play-off clash.
"It's no consolation to be told you were in the match of the year when you come out on the losing end of it after 100 minutes. It's pretty frustrating.
"We want to be top six and it doesn't have to be sixth, that's what we're saying.
"Just get up there, stay in there. We managed to do it for a lot of last year but ultimately just fell short and were disappointed with the way we finished," said the Portumna native.
Connacht wrapped up their pre-season games last weekend with an impressive 28-12 win against Munster in Thomond Park, having gone down to Grenoble and Castres in their other encounters. They will open their campaign at home to Dragons next Friday at the Sportsground and the following week travel to face champions Glasgow Warriors.
There will then be a break of three weeks for the World Cup before they entertain Cardiff Blues on Saturday, October 3. There will be another free weekend before Zebre come to Galway on October 16, followed by a trip to Ospreys.
Pat Lam's men will then be at home for successive weekends, meeting Edinburgh on October 31 and Treviso a week later before heading into European action.
"It gets more difficult, probably the little bit of the surprise factor is probably gone and a couple of teams will be looking at us more in terms of what we've done over the last few years," added Muldoon.