The Heineken Cup returns to the Sportsground this Saturday for only the second time in the provinces history as Connacht face struggling English side Gloucester.
It might only be round three of the Pool stages – a single point is all that separates bottom side Connacht with Gloucester – but this weekend’s opposition offer the Irish province another chance to record a first win in Europe’s top rugby competition.
After the spectacular opening ceremony that surrounded the Toulouse game, Galway city is once again bracing itself for a barrage of supporters from both the home and away sides. An early afternoon Saturday kick-off will surely see a festive atmosphere, along with a financial bonus, for the city’s many taverns.
Connacht will have to do without the services of lock Michael Swift who went off injured in last week’s defeat to Treviso.
A knee ligament injury has ruled him out for a fortnight but his partner in crime Mike McCarthy will return from suspension to bolster the Connacht pack. Johnny O’ Connor is still unavailable due to a long term injury.
This is a timely return as Head Coach Eric Elwood has singled out the Gloucester forwards as no pushovers.
“Like every English side they have a big, strong pack of forwards,” said Elwood. “We’d be naïve to think that we could roll them over easily just because they are on a bad run, we will have to earn the win, like we always have to do. We are under no illusions that it is going to be a difficult task.”
Gloucester languish in eight position in the English Premiership, losing six out of their opening ten games and they have only won once in the past three games.
However, contrast Gloucester’s disappointing form to Connacht’s rather dismal form, losing eight games on the hop stretching back to September and the English side are the favorites coming into this game.
Last weeks defeat to Treviso was agonising to say the least for the team and supporters. They dominated possession and territory but alas, could not register the scores when they were required and they urgently need to address this lack of ruthlessness, going forward, if they are to succeed at this level.
Gloucester will turn up with all their big guns on show and will have ear-marked Saturday’s game as a tough, but winnable away tie but Connacht will be hoping to finally get back to winning ways at a heaving Sportsground.
Back Connacht at 7/4 on betfair.com