Tuesday 12 December 2017

Triple blow for Connacht ahead of 'daunting task' against Ulster

Connacht's Denis Buckley has been sidelined by injury. Photo: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
Connacht's Denis Buckley has been sidelined by injury. Photo: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Pat Lam will have to plot the downfall of Ulster for the first time without two of his first choice front-row, with Denis Buckley and Tom McCartney ruled out of Friday's clash.

And Ireland winger Matt Healy looks set for an extended spell on the sidelines after it was confirmed he broke his hand against Edinburgh last weekend; he will almost certainly miss the Champions Cup game with Toulouse on Saturday week.

Buckley is to have a scan on the knee injury he picked up in the win over Edinburgh - Connacht's first victory of the season - while McCartney suffered a hamstring injury and is waiting the results of his trip to the specialist.

Connacht backs coach Conor McPhillips confirmed that Kieran Marmion and Eoin McKeon only sustained "bumps and bruises" in that win, though Marmion looked in a lot of discomfort with an ankle injury when he limped off shortly after half-time.

"Ulster is a big challenge for us," added McPhillips. "We haven't beaten them since Pat has been here. "It is a daunting task with Ulster's squad depth and they way they are playing. They are not top of the league for nothing.

"When I was playing against them, Ulster always had a big strong pack and their backs were exciting.

"Having Les (Kiss) in that coaching team now, they are a very innovative team, they have threats all over the park, they are littered with internationals and have massive squad depth, especially in the backs.

"We are aware of that but we back ourselves as well and we have some threats in the backline too.

"For a few years they have been talking about silverware and I think they really believe that with their coaching staff and the squad they have, they are really going to make a challenge on all fronts in that area."

McPhillips confirmed that six of his squad were on Ireland training duty yesterday, though it was unclear whether winger Niyi Adeolokun was included after a lightning start to the season.

Meanwhile, there was some good news for Connacht yesterday with the signature of five young players on new contracts.

Peter Robb, Sean O'Brien, Caolin Blade, James Connolly and Ivan Soroka have all penned new deals.

The first four - all academy graduates - have signed up until the summer of 2018, while prop Soroka has joined the province on a season-long deal from AIL club Clontarf.

"We talk about succession, and it's really important to us," said McPhillips. "These guys got a chance of some senior rugby last year and they stepped up and they have been rewarded.

"We are definitely excited to keep these guys. You could see their potential coming through and it's only a good thing for us."

Irish Independent

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