The Connacht squad returned to training under the Galway sun yesterday ahead of their Heineken Cup round 5 match against familiar opponents Harlequins at the Stoop on Saturday (kick-off 1.35pm).
Versatile forward George Naoupu was stretchered off with a minor neck injury during last weekend’s league victory over Newport Gwent Dragons, in which he scored a first half try.
Naoupu has since been cleared by medics and will continue to be monitored ahead of Friday’s team selection.
While Kieran Marmion (dead leg), David McSharry (knocks) and Michael Swift (knocks) sat out yesterday’s squad session, they all returned to training today and will be available for selection at the weekend.
Johnny O’Connor, who was absent last weekend due to injury, has also returned to the fray this week and adds depth to the back row options for Saturday’s clash.
This will be the sides’ tenth meeting in European competition and ‘Quins are chasing their eighth victory. Connacht opened last season’s Heineken Cup with a gutsy 25-17 defeat at the Stoop during which captain Gavin Duffy and Tiernan O’Halloran scored tries.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s tussle, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood said: “We are going back into Europe again and with the victory last weekend the lads are in a good space. We are going there with a win under our belts after a couple of near losses. Everybody is mustard keen and looking forward to it.
“We were hanging onto a bonus point there (at the Stoop) last year, but there was a scrum penalty and another penalty, and if you don’t hold not the ball and you don’t have good discipline, a team like Harlequins and a player like Nick Evans will punish you.
“That killed us. When you work so hard, two late penalty kicks (from Evans) and you lose a bonus point. However, it was our first venture into the Heineken and we have gained from that experience.
“We will have an element of respect from Conor (O’Shea) and John (Kingston) and the lads, but we are under no illusions. They have blitzed everyone in Europe this year.”
Connacht lie third in the Pool 3 table, a single point behind Biarritz Olympique (9 points) whom they faced in a December double. The westerners conclude the pool stages with a home game against Italian side Zebre on Friday week.