Saturday 24 March 2018

Time to park those Cardiff blues once and for all

Connacht must make the most of powerful set-piece to end hoodoo

Connacht’s Matt Healy at the Sportsground ahead of the weekend game against Cardiff
Connacht’s Matt Healy at the Sportsground ahead of the weekend game against Cardiff

With World Cup rugby coming out our ears it's hard for us non-players to switch the focus to the Pro12, but I'm sure the Connacht squad have just one thing on their minds this week: a win against Cardiff.

I really don't know what it is about Cardiff that causes Connacht so many problems, but we've had some right stinkers of performances and results against them.

Last year's two results epitomised that and I'm certain the Connacht players will be gung-ho to avenge the result in the Arms Park especially.

That was the night there was ten minutes of time at the end of the game before the ball finally went dead with their winning try.

The fact that Connacht coughed up a 14-point lead at the Sportsground this time last year didn't sit well either, so a win will be huge tomorrow if it comes.


I think Connacht will do the business, though. The Blues will have to cope without a serious cog in their machine after Gareth Anscombe's late call-up for Wales.

Both teams will make for interesting viewing when they are named later today, but as long as Connacht can retain the majority of their pack to keep that scrum in dominant form, it's hard to see them beaten.

They have devoured Dragons and Glasgow so far at the set-piece, but they have not got the rewards they deserve from that dominance. The couple of weeks to hone that should help their cause.

I expect a Connacht win, build on a very strong set-piece and for Jack Carty to continue his impressive form to date from the tee and with ball in hand.

If we get anything like the action we've seen in the World Cup at the Sportsground we're in for a real treat. What a World Cup it's been so far, and the Italy versus Canada game last Saturday typified that.

It's strange to see Italy at such a low ebb, but maybe Canada are much better than we thought and that augurs well. Ireland hammered Canada in the first game, and with Italy next up, we have another chance for all five points.

From an Italian perspective, sometimes when you keep trying to get better, you make mistakes: you can over-think things.

Nevertheless there's no room for complacency, anything can happen - especially after what Japan did to South Africa.

Ireland will be very happy with their first two results, especially compared to England. They should have beaten Wales last weekend, but it just shows how psychology trumps physicality.

Wales had so many injuries near the end but England couldn't hold on because of their lack of leadership.

It will be intriguing to see how they will react against Australia tomorrow night. But England could beat Australia and then that changes everything again. That's the nature of this tournament.

The English media went into overdrive this week, as they blasted their team's performance against Wales. It's a bit disappointing when you see that because you can just imagine the pressure that team and the coaches are under.

The press build them up beyond belief, but they certainly aren't scared to tear them down either, and they did that. It must be like someone constantly chipping away at your shoulder, and any chance they get they try to undermine the team.


I suppose some of the criticism is warranted when you see what Stuart Lancaster did in the second half of the Welsh game. I couldn't quite fathom why he would take off Ben Youngs, who was having a stormer, and then there was the Robshaw/Farrell/Ford fiasco.

The coach shouldn't have bothered changing his tactics when the physicality was obviously fruitful for them in midfield.

Surprisingly, Sam Burgess had a decent game, and he should have stayed on, and then you had the two kickers on the pitch.

The dynamic of the game changed, and then of course someone bottled it and decided to kick to the corner.

It will be interesting to see what this Saturday night kick-off has in store.

Irish Independent

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