Mack Hansen’s European debut with Connacht will have to wait

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Mack Hansen’s Heineken Champions Cup debut has been delayed again through injury. Connacht’s leading try scorer this season, who was ruled out of their opening two European games, has again been sidelined for Saturday’s meeting with Leicester Tigers at the Sportsground (kick-off 3.15pm) after aggravating a calf injury in training.

The 23-year-old, Irish-qualified winger has been a revelation since his arrival from the Brumbies this season, scoring six tries in eight URC appearances, and is a significant loss for Andy Friend’s side. However, Connacht are optimistic that Hansen will be available for the trip to play Stade Francais on January 23rd.

More encouragingly though, Jack Carty will be fit for this Saturday’s game. The outhalf suffered a nasty looking mouth injury in the win over Munster on New Year’s Day but has been passed fit for the encounter against the Premiership league leaders, who lost their first game of the season away to Wasps last Sunday.

Further down the line, prop Denis Buckley could return later this month after being sidelined with a knee issue toward the end of last season, while centre Peter Robb, who is recovering from a shoulder issue, is also nearing a return. Centre Tom Daly (knee) could also return by mid-February, as might lock Gavin Thornbury (shoulder).

“We’ve got a pretty clean bill of health at the moment so we’re in a good space as a squad, which is good at this stage of the year,” Friend said.

“That’s probably the only plus coming out of all the weekends off, you get a chance to recover and recoup, and we’re in a good space on that front.”

The Tigers turned the screw in the final half-hour of the first meeting between the sides at Welford Road after the introduction of a heavyweight reserve frontrow, but while mindful of the way Leicester will look to impose themselves in Galway the Connacht head coach believes they need to be true to themselves.

“We need just to be us. So we need to be better in our set-piece, in terms of our scrum, we got caught last time not chasing our weight after the hit, so we need to make sure we do that and not give them easy go-forward ball on the scrum.

“But I do believe we have got a pack that can do that for us. I think our bench is going to be really important this week, but again, we then just need to go back and play our brand of rugby and I think if we can do that, we can cause some headaches.”

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