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Connacht clash is a must-win fixture in the race for Europe insists Mulvihill

24th January 2019

John Mulvihill insists Saturday's Guinness PRO14 encounter against Connacht is a must-win fixture for his side, as Cardiff Blues look to step-up their challenge for Heineken Champions Cup qualification.

The Galway-based outfit currently sit five points ahead of Wales’ Capital Region in Conference A, and are level with third-placed Ospreys.

The two sides meet at the Welsh capital on Saturday, with a return fixture to be held at the Sportsground in April.

The Australian hopes his side can make home advantage count and is looking forward to meeting up with close mate and Connacht head coach, Andy Friend.

“This our first chance to have a real crack at Connacht, and if we win this week it will really put us in-touch with third place. But if we lose, we’ll be facing an eight to 10-point turnaround for us,” said Mulvihill.

“It’s really important that we get off to a good start and put them under a lot of pressure. 

“They will be missing a few key players, as will we, but our depth is good in those areas and we’ll be able to put out a good team.

“The boys always play well at home. They like the surface, they can play quick rugby with a bit of freedom.

“If it’s wet, it might make it a little bit tough, but our handling is usually good and we hope to put Connacht under a bit of pressure.

“We’re expecting them to come with a structured attack from line-out and a smart kicking game.

“They maul a lot and have a good scrum, so they’re a pretty complete team who have been flying under the radar this season.

“They’re also doing well in Europe and are still alive in that competition.

“They’ve built some good depth over the last few years, and Andy Friend has a good group down there. He’s a good coach and is getting the best out of them at the moment.

“I hope to catch up with Andy, depending on their travel arrangements. He’s done really well, and has been a big supporter of me over the years.

“We coached against each other in Japan, as we did in Super Rugby, when he was at the Brumbies and I was with Western Force.

“We won down there Canberra, which not many teams manage to do, so hopefully we can have a repeat result this week.”

The Blues signed off their European campaign with a resounding bonus point victory over Lyon at the Arms Park last week.

Mulvihill was pleased with his side’s attacking threat against the Top 14 outfit, and is confident they’ve prepared thoroughly for Saturday’s encounter.

The head coach said: “Last week we were able to show our attacking intent and move the ball to the areas that we wanted to, we’ve had a real identity to our defence throughout the season.

“If our defence doesn’t work, then sometimes our attack can falter. We’ve have that identity in defence, and we’re starting to work out what we’re like as an attacking team, and we’re much better when we move the ball.

“This week has been one of the best preparation we’ve had over the last few weeks, in terms of having the full week to train.

“We’ve been in on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and will cap it off with the team run at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday.

“Due to aspects like the competition intensity, the physicality of games and Christmas and the New Year, we’ve been limited to a day of training and captain’s run recently.”