Sunday 25 August 2019

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.” (Stock photo)
“We're going to be good,” promised a bullish Eoghan Masterson this week. “We’re going to be devastating.” (Stock photo)
David Kelly

David Kelly

"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.

Read more: Skipper Sexton ready to lead as season steps up

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.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"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."

Verdict: Scarlets

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



Subscribe to The Left Wing,'s Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport