Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade makes strong case for Ireland inclusion with latest star showing
Getting into contention for Andy Farrell’s World Cup squad is like squeezing your way into a Tokyo commuter train at rush hour. But that doesn’t stop potential candidates putting their hand up, and then pressing their case.
Take Caolin Blade. He is now the only Connacht player who can point to the paragraph on his CV that reads two hat-tricks in the one season. With the possibility of further amendment.
Naturally enough he was the man of the match at a sunny, stuffed Sportsground where we had two teams on different trajectories.
Connacht completed their first five wins in a row since Pat Lam’s winning season in 2015/’16. Edinburgh are also-rans.
The visitors came with lots of shape; they had lots of possession and position but ultimately they were short on substance.
They did manage four tries in a game of 10, losing 41-26, so that was something. But this was one of those afternoons when the home supporters got full value for money.
And this despite a first half where they conceded eight penalties, which rationed their possession, yet succeeded in having three tries sorted by half-time by which point they led 20-7.
It was Blade who emptied Edinburgh with a long-range strike off an intercept for effectively a 10-point turnaround.
“When you start a game well it doesn’t matter who it is on our team, they grow in confidence,” Blade said. “I suppose we lacked that at the start of the season so it shows where we are now in the group. And when someone starts well everyone gets in behind them. Hopefully there’s another hat-trick next weekend.”
If so it would be Connacht’s six win from seven games. So there’s not a lot wrong with their form, or their position in the group squabbling over places in the quarter-final contingent.
With two rounds to go they are where they wanted to be. Which sits very well with outgoing coach Andy Friend.
“The way we’ve training lately has been exceptional, which gives us that energy, and that feeling allows us to play like that.”
He puts a lot down to the coaching group, and the fact that unlike previous seasons their run-in is facilitated by a firm, reliable surface. They play like a team with lots of bounce.
“What a brilliant asset Connacht now have and fair play to the board for putting the money into that because now it is going to allow us the certainty to play this exciting brand of footy.”
Blade thrives on it, but so too do other locals like Cathal Forde, who opened the scoring with a terrific individual try, and replacement wing Shane Jennings who showed up very well, not least his steal in flight of Edinburgh No 8 Bill Mata.
Connacht look like they are peaking on the perfect pitch.