Fit-again Duffy back in squad for ‘must win’ clash against TrevisoNovember 2, 2012 - 8:00am
INTERNATIONAL call-ups, John Muldoon, Tiernan O’Halloran and Mike McCarthy, have been released by Ireland coach Declan Kidney back to their province this weekend as Connacht take on Benetton Treviso in a ‘must win’ RaboDirect Pro 12 clash at the Sportsground on Saturday (5pm).
Connacht coach Eric Elwood is also boosted by the return to training this week of captain and full-back Gavin Duffy, who has missed the past few games through injury, while lock Andrew Browne and scrum-half Paul O’Donohue are also available for selection having recovered from injury.
Centre Dave McSharry, in top form so far this season, also trained this week after sitting out last weekend’s disappointing 26-9 defeat at the hands of Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
That game, where Elwood fielded a largely experimental team with combinations that hadn’t played together competitively before, was costly on the injury front, however, as both centre Mata Fifita and George Naoupu suffered injuries and are ruled out of the tie with the visiting Italians.
Elsewhere, centre Eoin Griffin, hauled ashore with an ankle injury against Harlequins a fortnight ago, remains unavailable and Etienne Reynecke, Kyle Tonetti and Matt Healy are also still sidelined. Fetu Vainikolo, who looked very lively in that Harlequins Heineken Cup clash, has also been released by his Tongan international team for this weekend.
Connacht badly needs a decent start on Saturday. In this equivalent fixture last year – which the Italians won 15-13 to silence the Sportsground – the home side, despite showing early enterprise, gave the visitors a 10 points to nil start after just 15 minutes.
From there on in, Treviso had a lead to protect, which they did with a staunch defence, even though they had a man in the sin bin for 10 minutes midway through the second half. Connacht didn’t help their cause either with a total lack of clinical execution in attack.
Of the four previous meetings between the sides, it’s honours’ even with two wins and two losses each. And the head-to-head statistics of those four games – both sides scored seven tries, both sides landed 14 kicks, and the cumulative points tally of the four matches was Connacht 72 Treviso 73 – suggests this is going to be another nail-biter that will go down to the wire.
The tightness of the four previous results also suggests the vanquished will pick up a losing bonus point but if that turns out to be Connacht, they will find cold comfort in the consolation prize, and anything less than a win will be a massive setback for the Westerners.
Treviso lies two places and three points above their hosts; and if Connacht are to keep pace with the teams in mid-table – never mind those in the top four – earning only their third win from eight league matches so far is a must.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.