Thursday 22 February 2018

Duffy confident Connacht have the squad to deal with fresh injury setbacks

Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy speaking during a press conference at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy speaking during a press conference at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy insists there is no injury crisis in the province, despite a number of high-profile withdrawals ahead of their crucial PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues this weekend.

Ireland full-back Tiernan O'Halloran could miss the round four game after he picked up a hip injury in the first half of Connacht's 21-8 loss at Dragons last Friday.

Winger Matt Healy has also been ruled out for three weeks with a groin complaint, while fellow back Niyi Adeolokun continues his recovery from a knee injury.

The province will also have to plan without flanker Sean O'Brien until the new year following shoulder surgery this week, while Peter Robb and Cormac Brennan (injury), and new Fijian centre Eroni Vasiteri (visa application) are also unavailable.

Despite a length sick-list, Duffy says there is plenty of depth in the squad to contend with the injuries, with Cian Kelleher, Darragh Leader and Rory Scholes already with game time under their belts this season.

"We always have a number of options there in the back three. There is a number of players that can fill and rotate into those roles," said Duffy (left), who is one of the surviving coaches from Pat Lam's tenure.

"We are trying to build a squad based on competition so we would love to have everybody available but unfortunately we are going to get knocks.

"Niyi moved well yesterday on the field, he was working with the S&C staff and we have him with the medics. As yet there is no date of when he is going to be back."

The loss of O'Brien is a tough blow for the Connacht pack though. The Galway native impressed off the bench in defeat to Glasgow in week one and then forced his way into the side for the arrival of the Southern Kings the following week.

But he only lasted 31 minutes after he sustained the shoulder injury, which has proven to be a bit more serious than first imagined, according to Duffy,

"I didn't really know (about the extent) of Sean O'Brien's injury until we had the scan from the medics in Dublin. His surgery has gone well so we would like to get him back as early as we can.

"Sean has been going really well, he has matured a lot in the last two seasons. He adds a number of options for us in that back-row area.

"But we have a lot of able-bodied guys who are pushing for places, it's disappointing but it's part of the game."

On the back of last weekend's defeat to Dragons, Connacht will be hoping to beat Cardiff Blues and maintain their third position in Conference A of the PRO14 this Saturday.

And even though they have lost two of their opening games under the leadership of Kieran Keane, Duffy believes they are set for a boost in their performances over the coming weeks.

"Everything is going to take time. It's a collaborative approach. The players are massively involved in the new game-plan," said Duffy

"There is a lot of experience in the coaching group. We are finding stuff out about each other which is great. It's been really enjoyable.

"We are pretty happy as a group. There is a good vibe in the camp between the playing and coaching staff. We are enjoying what we are doing. Hopefully you are going to see that in the next couple of weeks.

"Change is good, we are all changing and adapting on the fly so it's something we have embraced. It has energised everybody and it's been a good couple of months and I'm thoroughly enjoying working with Kieran."

Irish Independent

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