Connacht’s road to Challenge Cup final starts this Saturday

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Its really enjoyable writing these articles on Connacht weekly and it can be almost therapeutic in many ways but there are some weeks where I sit here and wonder, do I secretly enjoy the misery? I jest of course but some weeks are tougher than others but thankfully, this week is not one of those weeks. I have a bonus point win and an upcoming European game to talk about. This means a happy Stephen.

Bonus point win over Benetton

Connacht did exactly what we asked of them as supporters last weekend. They delivered a bonus point win and added five points to their league tally. They achieved this by beating Benetton by 38 points to 19. After I criticized the Connacht attack last week, I was delighted to see them score five tries against the Italian team and it reaffirmed my beliefs of where Connacht stand against certain teams. I see this Connacht team as a proper contender for a top eight spot. If they are to be that, they need to be dispatching Benetton at home, and they did.

By my reckoning they are four points off the max total they would have hoped to have at this stage of the season.

There were some big performances throughout the Connacht team but one I want to highlight is Paul Boyle. Rugby moves so quickly that its very easy to forget where a player was a year ago.

Due to injuries and a dip in form Paul Boyle did not have the season he wanted last year.

He lost his place as a regular starter for the team and struggled on the pitch when he did play. Considering in July of last year, Paul won his first Irish cap against USA in the last game of the summer series, he would have been hoping that last season would have been a huge kick on for him where he would be winning even more caps in Irish green. A reminder also that Paul Boyle is still only 25 years old, not even close to his physical prime. It is great for both him and Connacht that he seems to be back in great form and I for one am delighted for him.

Road to Challenge Cup Final starts on Saturday

This weekend kicks off the group stages of the challenge cup and Connacht welcome the Newcastle Falcons to the Sportsgrounds. It will be hugely interesting to see the team that is selected for this game. The reason I ask is that is Connacht also have two huge InterPro games at the end of the year against Ulster and Leinster.

Will Andy Friend and Pete Wilkins decided to rest some of their stars for this weekend with one eye on those two games?

I can see why they would but also, I think Connacht can go far in this competition and it could be a real chance to win some silverware. A win this Saturday against Newcastle would go a long way to starting that process.

Newcastle currently sit 9th in the English Premiership and have three wins from nine games. They are by no means a top team in England, but they also have five bonus points, so they are competitive in a lot of these games. They won’t be an easy out but Connacht at home should have enough to get over the line. Will Connacht risk that however by implementing a big rotation? It’s a very tough decision because you are now playing every week until the 28th of January which is incredibly tough for a squad like Connacht’s. It will be a fine balancing act for Andy Friend and his staff to work out.

But the biggest deciding factor for the game against Newcastle will be the team they send over, it seems highly unlikely they will send over a full strength team and with Brive also in relegation trouble. We could have drawn a good group.


Wayne Pivac to Connacht

The last thing I want to mention is the Wayne Pivac news that broke yesterday. The reason I bring it up is I have seen a few people on social media mention him for a potential move to Connacht. Before the Wales debacle, Pivac had a hugely successful stint with Scarlets. If you are a Connacht fan, would you want him coming to the club? I personally would welcome it but only as a Director of Rugby role. A straight replacement for Andy Friend.

I like Pete Wilkins and believe he can continue to push the club forward and I don’t believe Andy Farrell would have brought him to New Zealand if he didn’t see some potential either.

Only time will tell but it is an interesting idea for Connacht to mull over.

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