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Connacht Ready For Big Time

Connacht Ready For Big Time

Connacht stalwart Eric Elwood believes that his side are ready to shake off the tag of Irish minnows and stand on their own two feet.

Connacht completed a memorable double over Cardiff on Friday night, having beaten them at the Arms Park last year.
The side have always been in the shade of the three heavyweights Munster, Ulster and Leinster, but Elwood finally feels they are starting to come of age.

He said: “In the past we have always been a feeding club for the big three in Ireland. However, we are now ready to establish ourselves as a serious team with major ambitions.”
Connacht enjoyed a superb season last year when reaching the quarter-final of the Celtic League and they are more than capable of going one step further this season, believes the former Ireland international fly half.

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“We have a good young side this season, he said. “The average age is 22 and we can use that to our advantage. It sets up a good foundation and I really feel that this is the start of a new future for the club.”

As well as competition from the big three in Ireland, Connacht also have to compete with other more popular sports in the area, such as Gaelic football and hurling.
But after several tough years, rugby is starting to attract some interest.
“Last season was remarkable,” Elwood said. “We did really well and it’s been unbelievable to see the amount of interest it has attracted. With that has come a certain amount of expectation but we are more than capable of handling any pressure.”

As life on the pitch goes from strength to strength, so does life off it. The tiny Galway Sportsground which holds only 2,000 people is being refurbished and redeveloped in a bid to keep up with fervant interest in the team.

And for the trip to Donnybrook on Friday, coach Steph Nel makes four changes from the side that defeated Cardiff.
Chris Keane is preferred to Eoin Reddan at scrum-half, Dan McFarland replaces Ronan McCormack in the front-row, Johnny O’Connor returns from injury and John O’Sullivan edges out Eric Peters for the number 8 shirt.

Connacht M McHugh; T Robinson, D Yapp, T Allnutt capt, W Munn; E Elwood, E Reddan; D McFarland, M Uijs, P Bracken; W Waugh, R Frost; M Swift, J O’Sullivan, J O’Connor.
Replacements. R McCormack, J Flannery, C Rigney, P Neville, M Walls, S Moore, D O’Sullivan.