Match Preview | Connacht
Glasgow Warriors will kick-off their 2020/21 campaign this Saturday evening, as Danny Wilson’s squad travel to Galway to take on Connacht.
It will be the fourth time in five years that the Warriors open their Guinness PRO14 season on Ireland’s west coast, as the two teams meet for the first time since 2018/19.
Wilson’s men will be looking to pick up where they left off at the end of the 2019/20 season, when a 15-3 victory over Edinburgh saw them close out the campaign in winning fashion.
A trip to the Sportsground always provides a tough test, however, with Connacht looking to avenge the last-gasp defeat they suffered at the hands of the Warriors back in 2018.
Here’s how Glasgow’s opponents shape up ahead of Saturday evening’s clash:
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Connacht Form Guide
Andy Friend’s side finished the shortened 2019/20 season in fourth place in Conference B, with eight wins and seven defeats from their 15 matches.
The men in green returned to rugby in style in August, as four tries secured a 26-20 bonus-point victory over eventual runners-up Ulster at the Aviva Stadium.
They came undone a week later, however, as first-half red cards for Abraham Papali’I and Shane Delahunt consigned Connacht to a 49-12 defeat at the hands of Munster.
Connacht supporters bade farewell to a host of long-term club servants over the summer, as the COVID-19 shortened season brought about a premature end to the club careers of some fan favourites.
2016 Guinness PRO12-winning winger Niyi Adeolokun was amongst those to leave the Sportsground as he joined Bristol Bears, with Australian back-rower Colby Fainga’a making the switch to Lyon.
Young second-rower Joe Maksymiw also left the Galway side to join Guinness PRO14 rivals the Dragons, whilst Tom McCartney and Eoin McKeon both hung up their boots for the final time in their professional careers.
Friend and his coaching staff recruited shrewdly in the off-season, bolstering the Connacht squad with some acquisitions from their provincial rivals.
Centre Sam Arnold and flanker Conor Oliver made the switch from Conference B rivals Munster, whilst highly-rated prop Jack Aungier and second-rower Oisin Dowling joined from reigning champions Leinster.
Former Australia 7s coach Friend also took the opportunity to bring in one of his former charges, as speedster Ben O’Donnell agreed to join Connacht from the abbreviated form of the game.
Ones to Watch
Irish international fly-half Jack Carty has long been a stalwart in the Connacht side, and the 28-year-old is likely to once again be the man to make his side tick. A reliable goal-kicker and threatening with ball in hand, Connacht’s success is likely to depend on Carty’s performance.
A Super Rugby and Guinness PRO12 winner, Bundee Aki is another man around whom Connacht’s game plan revolves. One of the league’s most physical carriers, the centre is a key driver of momentum for both club and country.
Up front, Jarrad Butler has quickly become a talismanic figure in the green of Connacht. Comfortable in any of the back-row positions, the New Zealander leads from the front every time he steps over the whitewash.
With last season’s meeting between the two sides having been cancelled due to the COVID-19-enforced shutdown of the Guinness PRO14, you have to go back to 2018/19 for the most recent meetings between Glasgow Warriors and Connacht.
A 73rd minute drop-goal from Stuart Hogg settled a titanic affair at the Sportsground in round one, as the full-back’s intervention saw the Warriors emerge with a 27-26 victory over their hosts.
Glasgow then went on to do the double over the Irish outfit in round 16, as Grant Stewart and Robbie Nairn each crossed for a brace in a 43-17 win at Scotstoun in February 2019.
Welsh referee Craig Evans will be the man in the middle for Glasgow’s opening match of the 2020/21 season, as he takes charge of his 11th championship fixture.
Sean Gallagher and Eoghan Cross will be his assistants, whilst Olly Hodges will be on hand as Television Match Official if required on Saturday evening.
Supporters can watch the match live on Premier Sports 1 this weekend, with kick-off scheduled for 5.15pm on Saturday evening.
There will also be live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland MW, as well as full live coverage on our Match Centre at glasgowwarriors.org.
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