Stuttering Connacht hope to avoid more red faces against Scarlets
"We're going to be good," promised a bullish Eoghan Masterson this week. "We're going to be devastating."
Timing is everything; how Connacht would love it all to click at a venue where they have never tasted success, against the side who almost directly copied their once-enterprising excellence in succeeding them as champions last May.
After shipping three defeats in their opening four games, two of them that pre-season prognosticators would have eyed up as potential wins, successive trips to West Wales and then Belfast next week will fill supporters of the western province with nothing less than a sense of foreboding.
Connacht have not lacked guts of late; if anything, and their new coach Kieran Keane reminded us of it again following the late implosion at home to Cardiff last weekend, it is in the brains department where his side have faltered. The need to be nothing less than competitive for fear of a good hiding should steel them this evening, even if the Scarlets are unbackable 16-point favourites.
Keane has radically reshaped his side as he seeks a winning formula; the fitful experiment of deploying Aussie Andrew Deegan at out-half is temporarily binned after a mixed afternoon last Saturday, with Jack Carty restored, understudied by Steve Crosbie. Tom McCartney returns to skipper the squad, while the additions of Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon and Tiernan O'Halloran cannot but boost performance.
Tom Farrell comes into the centre alongside the misfiring Bundee Aki while Caolin Blade joins Carty at half-back.
"They are very expansive, very well-skilled and a well-drilled team," says Keane.
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"We are going over to beat them obviously. We have put in place a plan that we think could trouble them, but they are a quality side and you don't become champions for nothing."
SCARLETS - L Halfpenny; J McNicholl, J Davies, S Williams, S Evans; R Patchell, A Davies; R Evans, K Owens (capt), W Kruger, J Ball, D Bulbring, A Shingler, W Boyde, J Macleod.
Reps: E Phillips, D Evans, S Gardiner, T Beirne, L Rawlins, J Evans, P Asquith, T Prydie.
CONNACHT - D Leader; T O'Halloran, B Aki, T Farrell, C Kelleher; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney (capt), C Carey, U Dillane, Q Roux, J Heenan, J Butler, E McKeon.
Reps: S Delahunt, D Coulson, F Bealham, G Thornbury, E Masterson, K Marmion, S Crosbie, E Griffin.
Ref - N Owens (Wales)
Scarlets v Connacht, Live, TG4, 7.35
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