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No panic for Elwood’s Connacht

Guinness PRO12 Editor

20 Aug 2010

New Connacht coach Eric Elwood insists there is no sense of panic at the province as preparations continue for the new season.

Elwood took over from Michael Bradley this summer having previously worked as his assistant at The Sportsground.

The former Ireland fly-half is hoping to build on a series of promising performances last season which saw Connacht reach the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals and beat the likes of Leinster, Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh in the Magners League.

But while last term’s home record was an impressive thanks to a six-and-a-half month unbeaten run in Galway, their first pre-season outing at The Sportsground was far less promising.

An under-strength Connacht side were beaten 40-7 by Harlequins last weekend and, despite missing a vast number of senior players of the calibre of John Muldoon, Jonny O’Connor, Robbie Morris and Sean Cronin, Elwood admits that the performance wasn’t good enough.

“We know it as not acceptable, it’s not us, particularly a Connacht team at home,” Elwood told the Galway Advertiser.

“But we are not panicking. It’s a long season and that was our first game.

“Yes, we are disappointed, but we will be hoping to rectify that on Saturday.”

The chance to put things right comes against another Aviva Premiership side when Saracens travel to Ireland this weekend.

Elwood says he is expecting an even sterner challenge against the English league runners up, but he is adamant that that is exactly what his side need as they build up to what looks set to be the most intense and competitive Magners League season in history.

“We will face a stiffer challenge against Saracens,” added Elwood, whose men host the Dragons in their Magners League opener on September 4.

“But that’s what we want and that’s what we face week-in week-out in the Magners.

“I have no doubt the lads will step up to the mark on Saturday. I am expecting an improvement, and that’s all we can do, improve every week. The season will not be won or lost in the first two weeks.”

One area that Elwood is seeking major improvement in is his team’s defence.

Connacht conceded the most tries in last season’s Magners League and they shipped too many for Elwood’s liking against Quins.

Ireland defence coach Les Kiss has been in Galway this week helping Connacht prepare for Saturday’s friendly and Elwood is hoping to see a far better display this time around.

“We were very disappointed with how we defended. That is one of the key things that we will be looking at against Saracens.

“We know we let ourselves down, particularly at home, and we were disappointed with some of the tries which could have been easily stopped.

“At times we did create opportunities, but sometimes we overplayed it. It’s about getting the fine balance of realising when to play when it’s on, when to clear your lines, and obviously shoring up the work in defence.”