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Fitzgerald deserves his chance: Friend



Andy Friend

Andy Friend

�INPHO/James Crombie

Andy Friend

Conor Fitzgerald retains the Connacht out-half shirt, and clearly the faith of coach Andy Friend, after usurping World Cup squad member Jack Carty.

With Bundee Aki returning to make his seasonal bow, and commencing another stage of his career after committing to the IRFU, Connacht are keen to regain momentum against the hapless Kings and Fitzgerald is primed to keep his place for the double-header against Gloucester.

"He's been fantastic this year," said Friendof the ex-Munster man who was chosen for the tie in Toulouse last weekend ahead of Carty, a starter against host nation Japan only two months ago.

"We've had a lot of blokes step up this year and he's been one. We all saw the brilliance of Jack last year and that brilliance is still there, we'll see that again this year, no doubt.

"But now in Jack's absence, Conor has stepped up and said, 'I'm ready to take the 10 jersey'.

"He was actually disappointed, like any player is, when we didn't select him in the Leinster game because in his mind he had been playing good footy.

"And in our mind he had been playing good footy but Jack is a returning international and came back in. So when we gave Conor a chance to come on and go well in that Montpellier game, he did really well.

"He's got enormous self-belief, which is what you need at the highest level of the game.

"He's very aware of his strengths and in the areas of deficiency in his game, he's happy to work on that."

Friend will also be happy to see bench impacts from Niyi Adeolokun and Jarrad Butler after injury.

Southern Kings would normally be winless but they defeated the even more hapless Ospreys last time out. An interesting visitor will be Jerry Sexton, Jonathan's brother, who will pack down in the second-row.

Belfast Telegraph