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Turner backs Elwood to suceed

Guinness PRO12 Editor

3 Sep 2010

Magners League Coach of the Year Paul Turner has tipped Eric Elwood to be a major success at Connacht.

Former Ireland fly-half Elwood has replaced Michael Bradley and takes charge of his first competitive game when Turner's Newport Gwent Dragons travel to the Sportsground for the season opener on Saturday night.

And the Dragons boss, who knows better than most how to work on a tight budget, believes former Ireland Under-20 coach Elwood has all the necessary qualities to be a huge hit in Galway.

"Eric has been in the Connacht set-up for a long time as a player and then as an assistant to Michael Bradley after his retirement from the game,” said Turner.

"He knows his stuff and has done it for Ireland through the age groups and then alongside Bradley so for him it is a natural progression.

"As a former player I'm sure he will at times get as frustrated as I do. Anyone who says it is an easy job should go and ask Eric the same question in a year or two.

"But he is a good guy, knows his stuff and I'm sure he will do a good job at Connacht."

The last meeting between the pair came on the field 16 years ago when ex-Sale number 10 Turner outwitted his opposite number in a pre-season victory over Lansdowne.

But the Dragons chief admits he is extremely wary of Elwood, capped 35 times by Ireland, turning the tables on him as both sides look to kick-start their Magners League campaign with a crucial victory.

Turner, who guided the Dragons to a respectable seventh finish last season when they finished just six points off the inaugural play-offs, added: "Obviously we are both former outside-halves but Eric was always a very good organiser on the pitch and I'm sure that will reflect in his coaching.

"Juggling multiple competitions is always a challenge. It is always difficult for a region like ours to cope with three competitions but the Magners League is the bread and butter for both teams."

The Dragons, who have not recorded a win in the Irish province since their 32-14 triumph in 2004, will be looking to improve upon a disappointing 16-3 defeat the last time the two sides met back in April.

Turner described that reverse at The Sportsground as one of the most frustrating of the season and, despite a lengthy list of absentees this weekend, he won’t be excepting any excuses in Round One.

"There are a lot of injuries but you have to manage it. Like every coach you always feel you're five players away but the building blocks are in place.

"It's usually our graveyard in Galway but we have to win there sometime."