LAST OCTOBER, Connacht rugby engineered a win over Toulouse that was three years in the making.

For a province not long removed from the threat of extinction, a second victory in three years over the four-time European Cup winners was no small feat.

The French super club’s power saw them open up a 21-11 half-time lead with Yann David and Jean-Marc Doussain crossing the whitewash and Sebastien Bezy adding three penalites.

But Connacht fought back and Craig Ronaldson’s calm conversion of Bundee Aki’s 67th-minute try proved to be the winning score.

After last weekend’s ten-try hammering of Zebre, the Westerners are in prime position to qualify for a Champions Cup quarter-final for the first time in their history.

However, assuming that Wasps wrap up a bonus point victory over Zebre — not exactly a stretch of even the poorest imagination — Pat Lam’s side will need at least two points in France to advance to the last eight.

Winning against Toulouse in France is not virgin territory for Connacht, however, as they engineered a 16-14 shock win back in 2013 despite being outscored by two tries to one that day.

However, it does give them hope for this weekend:

“It certainly does,” said Tiernan O’Halloran when asked if that win would inspire his team-mates.

“Not a lot of people would have been involved in that game, but there was a few and that will rub off on other guys. They might talk about it going over there.

“They’ve won the competition a couple of times and we’ve never got anywhere near qualifying (for the knock-outs).

“It’s a huge game for Connacht Rugby. That was the first thing we said when we got in the changing room after the (Zebre) game: ‘Today’s done, we were expected to win today, but going over to Toulouse is a different story’.”

Connacht’s European adventure has been a welcome distraction from a Guinness Pro12 title-defence that has, thanks in large part to injuries, gone awry.

“It’s hard to put a finger on why that’s happened as well. The opposition in the Pro12 has definitely improved. That’s a major factor and maybe teams have changed their defence when they go in to games against us as well.

“The big one, our league form, is still our own execution of our own gameplan. We’re still not doing it at the standard we were doing it last year. The injuries have affected that, but it is what it is.

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“Europe is a different story and we just have to keep on going with it and try to get the confidence through it.”

Connacht’s Lewis Stevenson and Francois Cros of Toulouse. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But does their gameplan suit against Toulouse?

“I think it does. You saw them over here, they’re colossal men, they dwarf our fellas. I suppose we try to move the ball around the park to get their bigger lads moving.

“Hopefully that will cause a slight lapse in concentration at a key moment and we can capitalise.

“That’s the key issue, if we get any sniff of anything we have to capitalise, we have to execute. Because going over there you’re not going to get that many opportunities to score tries.

“It’s important that detail is there when we run any type of line, any set-play that we’re really spot on with anything we do.”

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