Pro 12 Season Preview – Connacht

Pro 12 Season Preview – Connacht

Connacht. The forgotten province, yet one I have a great deal of respect for. Often seemingly on the end of a very shoddy deal from the IRFU this team certainly can punch above its weight, although never consistently enough to launch a proper assault on the league.

This team often seem to be given the 3rd rate players for the other provinces, get them up the required standard, only to see the other provinces swoop in and reclaim them. Building any sort of consistent squad for years at a time never seems to happen for this team, and until it does I can’t see them improving any large amount, or at least not until further serious time, work, effort and funding goes into their academy system.

Connacht are the infamous underdogs, popular amongst other fans but for their fans they must be longing for the day when they are everyone’s hated team. For me, they’ve already built themselves up into a side that is beyond awkward to play and very difficult to break down, especially at the Sportsground. Few sides can go there with the confidence that they will come away with a win.

What Connacht needs to do is to keep building from the grass roots up, and keep believing that one day they will be given equal status with the other provinces. Having brought in players such as Dan Parks should hopefully give them at least a consistent point scoring option that means they can remain competitive.

Connacht have a spirit and an ethos, summed up in their words ‘Front up Rise up’ that gives them the determination to succeed. They might not be quite ready for it yet, but I’ve no doubt if they keep building as they are they will one day be able to properly challenge in the Pro 12.

Year on year this league gets more and more competitive as sides get harder to beat. No team will look to a match against Connacht with relish but I feel that their most realistic aims will be to finish at the top of the lower half of the league, amongst the battle with the likes of Treviso, Dragons, Edinburgh and the newly formed club Zebra.

One thing Connacht will always garner though is respect. Their support base is growing year on year and much of this must be down to the improvements being made on and off the pitch. You can only hope that Connacht keeps on moving on its upward curve but from what I’ve seen in recent seasons, this shouldn’t be a problem for them. 

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8 thoughts on “Pro 12 Season Preview – Connacht

  1. Enjoyable read. I think Connacht could prosper as a type of feeder side to the IRFU/Provinces, there is some talent in Ireland that won’t get gametime for a while, they produce their own and have more NIQs but imagine propped up with guys like Rhys Ruddock, Brendan Macken, Peter Nelson, Ian Nagle, Danny Barnes. It helps Connacht competitively as well a the IRFU/provinces. If you add in a few aging stars likes of DOC, maybe ROG in a few years they would improve. Don’t see it happening but I think Irish fans wouldn’t mind it.

    • That was my point though with that happening, it doesn’t benefit Connacht in the long run. They never get enough time to develop squad consistency over a number of years, and that can’t help with the support base either to keep on chopping and changing your squad and losing good players. Ireland does itself no favours to keep on holding Connacht back. You need 4 provinces providing you with good players not 3 and a development one. Ireland already struggle for squad depth talent wise at international level and I don’t think this situation with Connacht helps. Development should happen in the level below the pro 12 for fringe players (as it does in the Welsh prem). I fully expect a lot of people to disagree with that though! 🙂

  2. To have a group of players who can step up to HC/International rugby, they need to cut their teeth in the Rabo. Connacht didn’t get much funding from the IRFU but people didn’t go out to support them, those players would help them. The young and old guys would improve them dramatically, there’s change at teams every season, a few guys who are the foundation of the side propped up with a few young guys and experienced hands would help. We’re not holding them back. They won’t and probably never will succeed without doing something like this, there is not enough support there. They need to change something and a plan like that would help. We’re talking 4/5 guys coming in, don;t have to start but just around the squad, they are not a foundation just those regular players. 4/5 guys minimum move on from teams every year and it’s not massive upheaval. I don’t agree that this would be a travesty or anything like that.

    Ireland struggle with depth and this would help it a lot.

    • 4/5 guys….that should be the maximum. Connacht need to look to develop players from their own province though, it does them no good in developing a good core squad base if they keep on getting chopped and changed by players moving to and fro other provinces. As a short term measure I’d agree with it, but I’d be weary that Connacht get trapped as a development side, and that in itself can be a big turn off for fans, if they know they aren’t going to get to keep the players. I’m just comparing to how it works here in Wales, and I think how Connacht is treated at the moment and the lack of help they get is really hamstringing Ireland’s national side. It’ll take years to put it right.

  3. It’s on the way to being put right, the WRU don’t seem to have helped some sides like Blues when they had money troubles (might have that wrong) and the Dragons aren’t exactly helped a lot from the looks of things. Connacht do have their own guys, but they will probably never be able to produce enough. I think it is needed in my opinion.

  4. The WRU give all the regions the same amount of money. It’s individual benefactors/groups of directors that pick up the difference at each region and it isn’t up the WRU to sort that out. Plus, delving into the politics of WRU and regional finances….messy!!

  5. Ah right, I think it is close to being even now in Ireland, Connacht are allowed have more NIQs than the rest though, maybe Wales perform well to give the finger to the WRU, it seems like a farce for the clubs/regions to be honest!

  6. Oh aye the balance in Wales is all wrong at the minute, and it’s hamstringing the regions a fair bit, but the whole game in Wales is built for international success. They just need to make sure they don’t focus on that so much, they forget who provides the players in the first place!

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