Connacht boss Michael Bradley believes the development of a number his region’s star players provides a timely reminder of the crucial role the Galway-based outfit have to play in the future of Irish rugby.
The province is currently the subject of a review by the Irish Rugby Football Union, after the Connacht hierachy asked the governing body to examine how they can move forward in the coming seasons.
And while critics left, right and centre are throwing in their two penny’s worth as to the merits of four Irish provinces, Bradley believes the performances of his side as a whole and those of numerous Irish-qualified individuals should ensure Connacht’s importance to the national game is not forgotten.
Bradley’s men may be propping up the Magners League table but their last four games have shown just how much progress the province are making.
A fine win over the Dragons was the stand-out result, but a 19-19 draw with high-flying Glasgow and narrow loses at both the Ospreys and leaders Leinster have shown that Connacht can compete with the best the league has to offer.
Saturday’s heart-breaking, last-gasp defeat in Dublin was hard to take but the brace of tries scored by former Leinster wing Fionn Carr gave Bradley the chance to talk about the latest player making a name for himself with Connacht having not made the grade elsewhere in Ireland.
"They (other sides) don’t have the will to let them try and fail and come back again,” said Bradley.
“Fionn is a fantastic finisher but also the other parts of his game have come on immensely.
“He’s very good now at clearing his lines, he’s now reading defensive situations and he gets that because of the fact that he’s out playing and he’s getting a lot of feedback.
"And there’s other guys there, I mean Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Ian Keatley, there’s a fortune of them there and they are all benefiting hugely from what Connacht are doing.
"Frank Murphy, Keith Matthews as well, you wonder if they were plugged into a team of stars would they be stars themselves.
"You talk about a role in Irish rugby for Connacht – that is definitely one, but we’ve been harping on about that forever."