Friend: Burning desire in Connacht to put things right

Friend: Burning desire in Connacht to put things right

Andy Friend said the Connacht players held “healthy meetings” on Monday morning as they attempt to turn their season around.

Friday’s derby loss to Leinster was Connacht’s fourth defeat in five games and saw them drop to 15th in the BKT United Rugby Championship.

After a brutal run of fixtures, beginning the season with three interprovincials and games against both of last season’s finalists, Connacht tackle fellow strugglers Scarlets at the Sportsground on Friday followed by a trip to Ospreys in the final round of games before the international break.

Friend knows that two wins could change everything.

“The players held some healthy meetings this morning,” said the Connacht director of rugby on Monday.

“They feel they’re close, that we haven’t clicked as yet.

“It might sound like we’re repeating ourselves but that’s been the reaction and reality of the first five games.

“We’ve only had the one win, we’ve had moments where we’ve looked great, too many moments where we’ve taken the pressure release off through our own skill execution.

“The mood is good, there is frustration but at the same time there is a burning energy and desire to get things right.”

Connacht No 8 Paul Boyle said after the 10-0 defeat to Leinster that he believed they are one pass away from clicking in attack.

The Westerners ran Leinster close, disrupting their lineout and enjoying plenty of territory, but the lack of a killer edge inside the opposition 22 once again cost them dearly.

“We had nine entries into the 22 on Friday night for zero points,” said Friend.

“It’s a multitude of things that are letting us down. We can’t put our finger on one and say it’s the breakdown, a dropped pass, lineout, maul. We just need to be better at that.

“I thought our physicality and intent were there, we’re just not clinical enough at the moment.”

Friend doesn’t believe the players’ confidence has been yet but said there is a growing frustration with their inaccuracy in attack.

“Frustrating is the right word,” said Friend. “That’s exactly what it feels like. There is a lot of frustration with it because we feel we’re close to it, but we haven’t nailed it yet.

“If you lose the confidence and start doubting… we don’t want to be foolish either, we’re not going to be blind and say something is working when it’s not. We’re forever trying to look for those little edges that get it clicking.

“There’s a mountain of work going on behind the scenes but at the end of the day, our key principles are our key principles. I know they work, the coaches know they work. We’ve got to stay strong to that and get the performances out there that shows it is working – and gets us the win.”

Tom Farrell could make his Connacht return against the Scarlets

Prop Peter Dooley is a doubt for the Scarlets game after suffering a hamstring injury against Leinster. He was due to have a scan later on Monday.

Tom Farrell is back in full training and could return on Friday but Diarmuid Kilgallon (wrist) is unlikely to feature while Sean Masterson (Achilles) is expected to return next week.

The Scarlets ran in five tries against Zebre Parma on Saturday to claim their first win of the season. Connacht were 29-23 winners in Llanelli last season and the margin of victory has been six points or less in their last three meetings.

“Scarlets are not an easy team [to play against],” said Friend. “You look at their team sheet, they’ve got a lot of internationals in there and a lot of good signings.

“Similar to us they probably haven’t been firing on all cylinders at the front end, but there’s a few of us sitting down the bottom end of the table where we are searching for the game to come together.

“No doubt they’ll be targeting Friday night, as are we.”

URC team of the week: All four provinces represented

Watch Leinster v Munster in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday from 4.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport and follow a live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app

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