Andy Friend hopes Connacht can repeat France’s most famous European victory


It’s been seven years this week since Connacht stunned the rugby world by beating Toulouse in their own backyard in the Heineken Cup and coach Andy Friend believes they’re capable of a big upheaval again when they surrender in Paris on Sunday to face Racing 92.
This 16-14 victory paved the way for their most glorious time under Pat Lam and in a week as they celebrate the 135th anniversary of their founding, Friend said they were excited for Simon Zebo and his all-star team at the inside La Défense Arena on Sunday.

Their record in France is impressive, 16 wins in 36 games, although 15 of those victories came in the Challenge Cup. Their only Heineken Champions Cup victory in six trips to France, including four to Toulouse, remains that remarkable success in 2013, but Friend sees no reason why it cannot be repeated.

“We talked about our virtual meeting yesterday as a group and we just talked about that belief and my question was, can we beat Racing? And the nods around the video screen, every 50 or so, nodded. That’s all we need to worry about then.

Friend has never been to the remarkable Racing stadium and hope to participate on Saturday was not possible.

“I don’t believe any of our boys have been there. The first time we’ll see it is when we get off the bus an hour before kickoff, so it’s okay. You come out, look up, and then start your game. It’s just another rectangle, isn’t it? ”

Friend, who looks set to do without rear rower Sean O’Brien but has no other fresh injuries, will recover all of his internationals and is convinced this is the stadium Connacht deserves to be.

“This is where I think we belong, to be honest with you, and that was our key message from last year. We had the victory against Gloucester, the victory against Montpellier, and we pushed Toulouse away from home.

“We all said to ourselves that this isn’t something we should get excited about. It’s great to be there but we actually think we belong to this competition.

“We have two very big teams to start this season with Racing and Bristol. We are just focusing on Racing by the minute, but it’s a big step and we’re proud to be sure, but we think we should be on. ”


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