After losing their way entirely in the open prairies of the Aviva Stadium last weekend, it may not have been the most advisable preparation for Jake White to allow his cowed Bulls to go wandering in a forest en route to Galway this week.
White’s tourists are trying to find themselves, we are being told, with their sports psychologist waxing lyrically about how he wants his side to get motivated by studying the words on the competition ball. United. Rugby. Championship.
Perhaps if the players can make a better fist of holding on to the blasted thing, they may have a chance as White pitches his tent in the west for the first time since bringing his nation’s World Cup hopefuls here in 2007 for a warm-up game.
History records the 18-3 victory then as a propitious omen.
Last week in Dublin was less auspicious for their chances in the URC; Connacht, also pointless after week one, are primed for a brutally physical challenge and have reshuffled their side in keen anticipation of such a contest.
Conditions seem also to beget a type of contest a world away from the fare seen in Dublin; it will be interesting to see who has the greater stomach for the expected raw ingredients.
“We can only get better from here,” says ex-Munster loose-forward Arno Botha, a comment echoed by home-town centre Tom Daly after a collective away-day blunder in Cardiff that contained familiarly depressing traits carried over from last season.
With Tongan Leva Fifita primed for beefy bench intervention, and presuming Abraham Papali’i has been poring over tackle technique videos, Connacht’s strength in depth might ease any early-season worries.
Connacht – T O’Halloran; J Porch, T Farrell, T Daly, M Hansen; J Carty, K Marmion; J Duggan, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; C Prendergast, J Butler capt, A Papali’i. Reps: S Delahunt, M Burke, J Aungier, L Fifita, C Oliver, C Blade, P Boyle, S Arnold.
Vodacom Bulls – R Combrinck; C Hendricks, L Mapoe, H Vorster, S Jacobs; J Goosen, Z Burger; L Gqoboka, J van Zyl, J van Rooyen, W Steenkamp, R Nortje, M Coetzee capt, A Botha, E Louw. Reps: B du Plessis, S Matanzima, M Smith, J Swanepoel, J du Plessis, E Papier, C Smith, S Gans.
Referee – Ben Blain (SRU).
Connacht v Bulls,
Live, TG4/Premier Sports, 7.35