Sunday 19 November 2017

'They'll want to steamroll us -- we have to be ready'

Carr warns of looming Toulouse onslaught as Connacht seek to produce Euro sequel

Connacht’s Fionn Carr is looking forward to facing Toulouse in front of 9,000 fans at the Sportsground today SPORTSFILE
Connacht’s Fionn Carr is looking forward to facing Toulouse in front of 9,000 fans at the Sportsground today SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

THEY'VE never had it easy, so why would this week be any different?

It is usually French teams that get hit with travel sickness on the European stage but on one of the biggest weeks in the history of Connacht, the Westerners have been floored by the flu.

In naming his team to start tonight's (6.0) clash, coach Pat Lam confirmed that 12 of the team struggled with illness this week and he seemed to leave the door open for some eleventh-hour changes depending on how his players feel this morning.

It has all been quite hectic down at the Sportsground. With extra seating, a ticket scramble and increased media attention, there has been no time to digest the biggest win in their history --a victory that has set up a chance for something truly remarkable.

SHAKE-UP

Should they pull another rabbit out of the hat this week, it would mark three successive wins in the Heineken Cup for the first time for Connacht. More importantly, it would put them right in the qualification shake-up, with Zebre at home their next fixture.

But that could all be premature. Everyone in the 9,000-strong crowd that will pack the Sportsground tonight will be aware that Connacht usually don't do sequels. False dawns and near misses have been plentiful.

"We know what Toulouse are coming here to do," said wing Fionn Carr. "They'll be coming at us hell for leather. They are looking for a backlash. They'll want to steamroll us and we'll have to be ready."

Connacht will need to deliver another heroic defensive display, and after last weekend's attrition, it's no surprise that all three of Lam's changes come in the pack.

Jason Harris-Wright and Rodney Ah You come in to the front-row in place of Sean Henry and Nathan White. Galway's Eoin McKeon starts at No 8.

"Things haven't been as badly affected as you might think," Carr revealed. "We were down numbers a little bit for training but I think everyone is on the mend. And anyway, I know the lads would have to be really bad before it would stop them playing."

Carr's return to the Sportsground after two years with Leinster was for weeks like this. One of the best finishers around, Carr needs to be in the front line. Were he still in Dublin, he might be preparing to welcome Cross Keys to Donnybrook in the British & Irish Cup.

"I don't regret going there," he said. "It was an amazing two years where we won four trophies. It's a great club with a great squad so I think it was the right decision at the time. In the same way I made the right decision to come back here."

He would have been forgiven for yearning for Leinster a few weeks ago when Connacht were collecting losses and injuries by the week.

"I don't think like that, we tried to stay positive. I did feel like it was only a matter of time before things started to click for us.

"I think that performance (against Toulouse) was coming. We were getting close in the game against the Scarlets -- we should have been more clinical; we should have won that game but we messed up a couple of tries.

"Then after the Edinburgh game we were very disappointed in ourselves. We did some analysis the following Monday or Tuesday where we had a long look at things. It was hard on some of the players but it was very honest as well and I think that really helped us."

That honesty sparked Connacht to their greatest win.

Once again, Galway is getting the best out of Carr.

"I think maybe playing every week is a help. Being in the team regularly helps I'd say. To be involved in a game like last weekend and in one this weekend in the Heineken Cup are why you are here."

Galway has been buzzing all week but after Toulouse depart, it's back to the bread and butter of the Pro12 and the slightly less glitzy clash with the Dragons.

"Next week we'll all be back in here. We know we need to get off the mark in the Pro 12 and start improving from there. Whatever happens this weekend we won't be resting up and relaxing., we know we need to start doing it on a regular basis," said Carr.

Last weekend represented a giant leap. Even the smallest step forward today will do.

Verdict: Toulouse

Connacht -- R Henshaw; F Carr, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You; M Kearney, C Clarke (capt); J Muldoon, J Heenan, E McKeon. Reps: S Henry, D Buckley, N White, A Browne, G Naoupu, F Murphy, C Ronaldson, G Duffy.

Toulouse -- C Poitrenaud; Y Huget, F Fritz, Y David, M Medard; L Beauxis, JM Doussain; S Ferreira, C Tolofua, C Johnston; R Millo-Chluski, Y Maestri, Y Nyanga, T Dusautoir (capt), L Picamoles. Reps: C Ralepelle, G Steenkamp, Y Montes, J Tekori, G Galan, G Fickou, H Gear, S Bezy.

Ref -- L Hodges (Wales)

CONNACHT V TOULOUSE,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 2 (RED BUTTON), 6.0

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