RaboDirect Pro12 preview: Glasgow’s Bennett wary of Connacht

RaboDirect Pro12 preview: Mark Bennett warns Glasgow Warriors that Connacht shouldn't be underestimated

By Gareth Llewellyn

Mark Bennett has warned Glasgow Warriors not to underestimate Connacht ahead of Sunday’s RaboDirect Pro12 match.

The Irish province sit bottom of the Pro12 league table with just two wins from 12 matches so far this season.

No matter what anyone says, they’re very strong and they play a good brand of rugby

Mark Bennett

But Connacht have picked up four losing bonus points as well as wins in rounds one and 10, and boast three Heineken Cup wins to their more impressive displays this season, including a famous 16-15 win away in Toulouse.

“Connacht are a strong side. No matter what anyone says, they’re very strong and they play a good brand of rugby,” Bennett said.

“They can put you under pressure, so I think it’s a game for us that we’re also looking to go out and win, we need to go out and win it if we want to be challenging [for the title].”

The Warriors have 12 players in Scotland’s match-day 23 to face England in the Calcutta Cup clash today at Murrayfield, but have one of the most experienced squads in the league with significant strength in depth.

Connacht have Robbie Henshaw, Rodney Ah You and Kieran Marmion back from the Ireland and Ireland A squads with former Warrior Dan Parks among the replacements.

After finishing second bottom of the league in the 2010-11 season, the Warriors have reached the semi-finals of the Pro12 in the last two seasons and have aspirations on going even further this year.

Bennett added: “I think this time last year we lost a lot of boys to the Six Nations and went on a great run so we really want to try and start that again.

“It’s a squad game and we’ve got a squad that can go out and compete week in, week out, so this is the time when we want to go out there and show that.”

Extended periods of wet weather in the west of Scotland in December and January saw Scotstoun Stadium fail to host league matches against Treviso and Edinburgh.

Everybody’s aim was to go out and put on a performance and from there just see where it goes

Mark Bennett

But the Glasgow club and stadium owners Glasgow Life have since done well to stage enthralling matches between the Warriors and Toulon and a 16-16 draw between Scotland A and England Saxons, a match in which several Warriors players, including Bennett, had a hand in.

“It’s huge. It’s an opportunity for us to be exposed to that level of rugby. It was another tough game; England were pretty strong, so it was great for me personally and for all the other boys involved – it was a great experience,” he said.

“Everybody’s aim was to go out and put on a performance and from there just see where it goes. I think quite a few people have put their hands up there.

“There was a great belief in that squad and we knew that we could do it. We scored a great try just before so confidence was high and it was just self-belief – the squad knew we could go out and hopefully win that game, and obviously it ended in a draw, but it was that belief right until the last minute that we were going to win it.”

Glasgow starting XV: Niko Matawalu; Lee Jones, Richie Vernon, Mark Bennett, Rory Hughes; Ruaridh Jackson, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Pat MacArthur, Ed Kalman, Leone Nakarawa, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, Tyrome Holmes, Josh Strauss (captain).

Replacements: Dougie Hall, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Jon Welsh, James Eddie, Fraser Brown, Murray McConnell, Finn Russell, Scott Wight.

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