Sport Rugby

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Emotional Elwood targets Glasgow scalp to finish Sportsground reign on high

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IT is a night of farewells out west as the Eric Elwood era draws to a close and Johnny O'Connor and Adrian Flavin say goodbye to the Sportsground when the province entertains Glasgow tonight.

It promises to be an emotional occasion for the Connacht boss, who, after three seasons at the helm and a lifetime involved with the province, will leave tangible signs of progress before officially handing over the baton to Pat Lam.

Eighth in the Pro12 table is the best his side can finish, which would match the joint highest of last season.

the introduction of new faces has been a feature of Elwood's time in charge, with the likes of Kieran Marmion, Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin and Eoin McKeon promising much for the future.

Unfortunately, Henshaw's hand injury will keep him out tonight, so captain Gavin Duffy remains at full-back, with Danie Poolman on the right wing and Fetu'u Vainikolo opposite. Scrum-half Marmion is partnered by Dan Parks and the No 10 will hope to thrive behind a pack that includes O'Connor, but not Flavin, who starts on the bench.

Glasgow, meanwhile, are in the play-offs, but a bonus point win could earn them a home semi-final if they can leapfrog Leinster. However, coach Gregor Townsend appears to be working towards a trip to the RDS to face the European champions next weekend and rests his two Lions Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg. Their reintroduction for the semi-final is sure to take things up a notch for the Scots.

The visitors are well set up to cause Connacht problems and will be aiming to spoil the party. But, whatever happens, the final moments of Elwood's stint in charge are bound to be tearful as the Clann Terrace bids farewell to one of its own.

"Obviously, as it is my last game and the last game for some of the boys, it will be an emotional occasion. But it is important that we keep remembering that there are four points up for grabs," said Elwood (pictured left).

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"We want to improve on last year and if we win we will have a record number of wins to go with our best away record so far. And we will get nothing easy from a Glasgow side that are chasing a home semi-final.

"It is hard to believe that this is my last week of 24 years involvement with Connacht. But your time always comes and I am just happy to be going out on my own terms."

Whether he can bow out on a triumphant note remains to be seen. While Connacht will want to win for their coach and departing players, Glasgow have plenty to play for too. It should be a cracker.

Verdict: Glasgow

CONNACHT – G Duffy (capt); D Poolman, E Griffin, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O'Connor, E McKeon. Reps: A Flavin, R Ah You, JP Cooney, M Kearney, J Muldoon, M Fifita, P O'Donohoe, M Nikora.

GLASGOW WARRIORS – P Murchie; T Seymour, S Lamont, P Horne, DTH Van der Merwe; R Jackson, H Pyrgos; M Low, P MacArthur, J Welsh; T Swinson, T Ryder; R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson (capt). Reps: D Hall, R Grant, E Kalman, J Eddie, J Strauss, N Matawalu, S Maitland, S Hogg.

Ref – G Clancy (IRFU).

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