Ahead of the start of the new season, Connacht have received a blow with the news that former Ireland Under-21 and Sevens international Andy Dunne is expected to be out for two months or more after injurying his knee.
The prognosis for out-half Dunne, who signed for Connacht from Leinster earlier in the summer, is a ten-week recovery period, meaning he will have time to get back fit for the start of the westerners’ European Challenge Cup campaign in early November.
The 27-year-old Dubliner, who had stints playing in England for Bath and NEC Harlequins, came off the bench to kick Connacht’s only points in their recent 18-3 defeat to South Africa. Connacht’s starting number 10 for that game was Australian Tim Donnelly, while Sligo man Peter Durcan was on out-half duty for last Tuesday’s loss to Castres Olympique.
Connacht face Castres again on Saturday afternoon at the Sportsground and coach Michael Bradley is eager for his players to continue the momentum garnered from their battling display against the Springboks.
“The South African game was a good marker to put down initially, in terms of where we are as a team after ten weeks of pre-season training but now that we approach the beginning of the season, we want to hit the ground running.
“This next match against Castres will give us our last chance to experiment if we need to. Having said that, it’s still important to put in a good performance and after Tuesday’s match we’ll be looking to go one better,” said the former Ireland scrum half.
Bradley is hoping the Saturday afternoon kick-off and the lure of French Top 14 opposition, who boast former Ireland and Lions lock Jeremy Davidson as one of their coaches, will swell the attendance in Galway where a capacity crowd watched the ‘Boks game.
“I think the players responded really well to the crowd at the South Africa game and hopefully we’ll get another good crowd for our last home match, before the Magners League starts again.
“It’s a different kick off time from what we’re used to, but Saturday at 4pm is still a good time to come and watch a game. Castres will probably put out a stronger side than they did on Tuesday but these are the kinds of games that prepare you for the season ahead and the players need them.”