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Griffin keeps faith for French mission

IT'S a statistic Connacht scarcely deserve in light of some of their recent performances, but defeat in Bayonne tonight will bring them an unenviable 10th defeat in a row.

The loss away to the Dragons was particularly galling, leaving the November win over Samoa only a distant memory.

Some of the defeats have been eminently avoidable as Connacht have failed to convert their chances, leaving centre Eoin Griffin at a loss to explain the results.

But tonight's Challenge Cup game in France offers them a chance to get back to winning ways.However, Bayonne have all the motivation as they are still in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages, while Connacht are out of the running after successive defeats to Harlequins in the last two rounds.

"It's been frustrating because we have been so close in so many matches," said Griffin. "But we just have to keep working hard and it will come right for us. We are creating the opportunities in every game but we need to finish them off."

Griffin is the only survivor in the backline from the Dragons game and he makes his European debut tonight.

The Galway native will start at No 13, with Niva Ta'auso moving to inside-centre. Interestingly, Fionn Carr is selected at full-back, with Shane Monahan making his European debut on the right wing.

All throughout the nine losses, head coach Eric Elwood has been keeping positive, even as he watches some of his best players eye the exit door. If a win in Bayonne is a step too far, Prato's visit to Galway next week should end the winless streak. Connacht will not be short of motivation for the visit of the Italian minnows, who shocked the province in the first round.

"We have continued to work hard and we know the results will come in the end," Elwood said. "It is important not to lose focus despite all the narrow defeats, but we can put this right.

"Bayonne will be a big test. We beat them in Galway and they will want to reverse that so this would be a very good one for us to win."

Verdict: Bayonne

Connacht (v Bayonne)-- F Carr; S Monahan, E Griffin, N Ta'auso, B Tuohy; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan; B Upton, McCarthy; A Browne, J O'Connor, M McComish. Reps: A Flavin, R Ah You, R Loughney, M Swift, S Conneely, C Willis, M Nikora, K Matthews.

Bayonne v Connacht,

Live, Eurosport, 7.45

Irish Independent