Saturday 24 February 2018

Blade eager to take new confidence into Munster clash

Connacht's Caolin Blade arrives to squad training at the Sportsground, Galway. Photo: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE
Connacht's Caolin Blade arrives to squad training at the Sportsground, Galway. Photo: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

After three straight defeats in the Guinness PRO14, back-to-back victories in Europe have given Connacht a timely boost ahead of the arrival of Munster to Galway on Friday night.

Kieran Keane's team selection for the gritty win over Worcester on Saturday suggested that the Kiwi had one eye on this week and several front-liners including John Muldoon and Ultan Dillane are expected to return.

Caolin Blade has been given the nod in the Challenge Cup thus far and after two decent performances, he will be hoping to remain in the team but Kieran Marmion will have something to say about that.

The Sportsground has not been a happy hunting ground for Munster in recent years with the Reds having been beaten there in two of the last three seasons.

"I think over the last two or three years, Munster have struggled when they have come here and we've got up for it," Blade said.

Momentum

"It's an inter-pro, I don't think anyone needs to say how big of a game it is. I think the last two weeks will give us a lot of momentum and confidence.

"I think confidence is one thing but our game-plan and structures are getting better. We can bring serious confidence into this week."

The change of competition has certainly done Connacht the world of good and while they may be flying high at the top of their Challenge Cup pool, the bread and butter of the PRO14 remains the priority.

"Two weeks ago when we parked the PRO14 for two weeks, it was definitely a good thing," Blade maintained. "We knew that we could get momentum if we got two wins. We got that so I think our game-plan is coming on a lot. There are still mistakes there but we are winning. We can bring that confidence into the PRO14 on Friday.

"The two home games (Munster and the Cheetahs) are massive. We parked the PRO14 but it's back into it now and there are no excuses. We have to take the confidence from that."

Blade (23) has steadily been racking up the appearances for his home province and while he accepts that Marmion is an Ireland international, he knows that with the November internationals coming up, his opportunity will quickly come around once again.

"I was delighted to get two starts but my main role is to push him as hard as he pushes me," the Galway native added.

"I think if me and Kieran have a relationship like that, it'll work for both of us."

Irish Independent

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