22 Mar 19
The Irish Sun
ANDY FRIEND admits Connacht have to be happy that they are in control of their own destiny as they head for the business end of the PRO14 season.
But the Sportsground coach added that they must deliver on that promise tonight against a Benetton Rugby side who have been superb this season.
Andy Friend says Connacht have to be happy to have their PRO14 destiny in their own hands
Connacht host the Italians hoping to keep their play-off hopes on track.
The 2015-16 champions are third in the pool with just four rounds of rugby remaining in the regular season.
But warning of the threat of an Italian job, Friend said: “The boys have been doing their own homework this year. You’ve just got to look at Benetton’s stats, the quality they’ve got. They’re second on that ladder and it’s a competitive table.
“They’re a good side and no one is under any false illusions about this one.
Connacht face a tough task against an impressive Benetton Treviso side
“We’ve had some good performances out there on the field this year and we’ve managed to get our fair share of wins but we’d like a few more. All eyes are on this one. We haven’t spoken much beyond that. Right at the start of the last block we said we know every game is a must-win.
“We know what we’ve got to do and we know if we keep winning games we’ll remain in control of our destiny.”
Friend has made three changes with Ireland international Ultan Dillane starting.
Connacht are without his international colleagues Bundee Aki and Quinn Roux.
But Friend welcomes back the Six Nations duo of Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion, who are both held in reserve.
There are two alterations to the backline after the 46-5 thumping of Ospreys three weeks ago. Darragh Leader starts on the right wing while Caolin Blade, fresh from his stint in the Ireland camp, takes Marmion’s slot at scrum-half.
Benetton are currently enjoying their best-ever season, having already won ten PRO14 games, and head coach Kieran Crowley can call on six of the Italian Six Nations squad to start this evening.
Lock Alessandro Zanni featured against France last weekend while full-back Luca Sperandio and out-half Ian McKinley were unused replacements in Rome. Tommaso Benvenuti, Nicola Quaglio and Marco Riccioni were also part of Conor O’Shea’s plans.
Friend added: “It’s a must-win. We’re at that stage of the season and it’s really important for us to get another win and a good performance.
“I was really pleased with the boys against Ospreys but we’ve had a chunk of time off — it’s important that we pick up where we left off.
“There is a lot more to Benetton’s game now. They’ve got the physicality up front but they’ve also got the skill-set.
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“They have been scoring lots of tries, have a good kicking game, can punch through the middle and offload too.
“There is a lot to their game, they have been very impressive this year.”
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; D Leader, T Farrell, P Robb, M Healy; K Godwin, C Blade; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham; U Dillane, J Cannon; E McKeon, C Fainga’a, J Butler. Reps: T McCartney, P McCabe, C Carey, G Thornbury, E Masterson, K Marmion, J Carty, S Fitzgerald.