So the festive inter provincials have finished this past weekend, a lot of indifference between the provinces, good if you are a Leinster or Ulster fan, not so good for Connaught and who knows for the Munster faithful. With the 5th round of European fixtures coming up this weekend just how will the Irish contingent fair out.
Lets start with the Pro 14 champions and pace setters, the imperious Leinster. Sending out a second string team, sprinkled with international starters, they ended the game as a contest after just 20 minutes, thanks to their bonus point try, record time for the current season. The only concern they had, was seeing James Ryan limp off with a hamstring complaint, further assessments coming later this week. Leinster having a 100 per cent record, in all competitions, this season, now focus their attention to Europe, where they will host Lyon at the RDS. Leinster, having been the only team ever to qualify for the knock out stages after Round 4, will be expecting a big win and only a brave person would bet against them at this stage. Lyon’s form in Europe has been poor and will not relish heading to Dublin. It’s hard to see anyone stopping Leinster at the moment.
As for Connaught, Andy Friend, was clutching for positives post game but they do deserve credit for their “never say die” attitude. Although they were no match for their opponents, they never stopped playing. Looking a lot better in the second half, they did manage to put points on the board in the 71st minute, only to see their in form out half, Conor Fitzgerald, stretchered off just minutes later, more injury woes for the Galway natives. However, Connaught have a habit of beating the odds, especially in Europe. This weekend sees them hosting, French giants Toulouse at the sports ground. Toulouse, another team with 100 per cent record in Europe, will accept nothing less than a bonus point win, but Galway, with its atlantic winds, will pose a very different proposition. Connaught will have no fear, even with a depleted squad, will attack and unsurprisingly, may come away with a victory. Once Andy Friend can have a period without injury, Connaught can certainly become contenders, maybe not in Europe, but definitely in the Pro14.