Looking back, how did 2016/17 go for Connacht?
The poor start due to a badly disrupted pre-season appeared to have been shaken off after beating both Ulster and Toulouse in October but then the wheels came off the wagon once Pat Lam announced his departure.
The defeat in Toulouse that knocked us out of Europe was basically the death knell for the season which might have been saved had we won in Northampton in the Champions Cup playoff, but we were just a bit too far off the pace.
It was frustrating to have slipped so far back after the glories of the previous season.
Kieran Keane has come in over the summer, what are your thoughts on his appointment?
We are really excited with the appointment of KK. He has worked in clubs with similar challenges with regard to finances and the perception of not being good enough to compete with the big boys.
He is a fascinating character and is the chalk to Pat Lam’s cheese when it comes to the media side of the job, and we love it. He has very high standards and is slowly but surely dragging the team back to playing some great rugby. We are still pretty exciting to watch, if somewhat more pragmatic and less structured.
Are you happy with your summer recruitment?
Jarrad Butler has been superb up to his injury, he has buckets of talent and works extremely hard and is the architypal modern day openside.
Gavin Thornbury looks like a bit of a slow burner in the row but he definitely has potential to be knocking on the door of the international setup in a year or two.
Peter McCabe and Denis Coulson look like solid, if unspectacular signings in the frontrow.
Scrum half James Mitchell came from Sale with a good reputation, but unfortunately he got injured in pre-season and hasn’t managed to get any game time yet
Out-half Deegan has looked good in Europe but in his only PRO14 outing we lost to you guys!
Rory Scholes had a bright start but hasn’t kicked on and is struggling to make the matchday squads.
Overall, we are happy enough with out summer signings without getting too excited.
Where would you say the strengths and weaknesses lie within your squad?
Our starting 15 is quite strong across the board, but there isn’t much depth anywhere really – so Joe Schmidt’s propensity to not pick more than two or three of our players leaves us in a decent enough position as there hasn’t been the usual raft of injuries so far this season.
Who is your Connacht player to watch this season?
Jarrad Butler had been having a stellar season before rupturing his knee ligaments in the win over Munster.
So among the fit players, Niyi Adeolokun scored a try on his return from injury in the last match and looked like a more complete, rounded player in that match, with his defense much improved and he will hopefully be a real handful for every opposition winger for the rest of the season.
What would a successful 2017/18 season look like for you?
Making the PRO14 playoffs and at least a home semi-final in Europe, anything else would be a bonus.
What is your score prediction for our game?
Cardiff 22 Connacht 23