Friday 18 January 2019

A tall order for Lam's men in land of giants

Quin Roux a welcome return. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Quin Roux a welcome return. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

This would rank right up there close to the PRO12 League final as a one-off if Connacht could pull off an away win in Toulouse for the second time in four seasons.

That is a monumental 'if', as the French showed at Wasps in losing a game they should have won that Europe still means something to the four-time winners of the Champions Cup.

"We are aware of the phenomenal challenge that awaits us in Toulouse on Sunday," issued Connacht coach Pat Lam. "But these are the sort of games that you want to be a part of.

"It's an opportunity as a player and as a team to put in a performance on the big stage.

"While the right outcome would be massive for Irish rugby, the focus remains on executing our game plan in a pressure environment to get us the win we need."

The Western province will have to do what they have failed to do so many times this season - play to the standard they achieved in that PRO12 final.

Even then, it may not be enough against a monster Toulouse scrum and carrying game.

Lam has been able to call on a quintet of changes, led by the return of Jack Carty.

The out-half has endured his troubles this season, especially in his place-kicking. Peter Robb and Craig Ronaldson will form a new midfield in what is a big ask of both men.

Up front, the return of Ireland international Quinn Roux will be welcome for his scrummaging power.

The back row will also benefit from the mobility of flankers Nepia Fox-Matamua and Jack Heenan, either side of captain John Muldoon.

Perhaps, the size of the challenge can be measured in the selection of 130 kilos Samoan Joe Tekori in the Toulouse back row.

There are a number of large human beings roaming the front eight in the likes of Census Johnston, Christopher Tolofua, Richie Gray and Yoann Maestri.

Wasps showed how moving Toulouse around can make them fade in the final quarter. Whether Connacht will be close enough is very doubtful.

Toulouse: Y Huget; A Bonneval, Y David, G Fickou, P Perez; JM Doussain, S Bezy; C Baille, C Tolofua, C Johnston, R Gray, Y Maestri, J Tekori, T Dusautoir (capt), F Cros.

Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, P Robb, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, Q Roux, J Cannon, N Fox-Matamua, J Heenan, J Muldoon (capt).

Verdict: Toulouse.

Toulouse v Connacht, tomorrow, Live SS4 (KO 3.15)

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