Caolin Blade would deserve to start for Connacht even if Kieran Marmion was fully fit, according to former Munster player James Downey.
An injury depleted Connacht side squeezed past Montpellier in the first round of the Heineken Champions Cup at the Galway Sportsground.
Scrum-half Caolin Blade was instrumental in his side’s win over the French club and scored a try himself in the 23-20 win.
Downey was very impressed by the 25-year-old and felt that Marmion will have a tough time regaining his place in the starting 15.
“You know I just think he can control things. He’s there on merit and people have been discussing about Kieran Marmion in the last couple of weeks but if they were both fit at the moment you would still stick with Blade.
“Just the tempo that he brings. He really gets the forwards going around him. He has that little something extra.
“You could see it as I said just after the half, it was a perfect against the grain snipe. If I was playing against him he’d be a guy you want to hold down at the base on the floor and slow down Connacht’s tempo. He was very impressive,” Downey said.
Bundee Aki also impressed for the Westerners after the World Cup disappointment and made a number of crucial plays to keep his side in the game.
“But a lot of players had some big moments. Bundee Aki had a nice hit and turnover. Again, these small moments that the crowd get behind and the crowd feed off.
“A couple of lyrics of ‘The Fields of Athenry came off the back of it and it just rejuvenates the players out there and twists the knife even further into the Montpelier side,” Downey said.
Connacht will now travel to take on the reigning French champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest Wallon at 1pm Irish time on Saturday, November 23rd.
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