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Andy Friend warns Connacht forward that his career in rugby is in danger

Andy Friend Connacht

“The bottom line is that he needs to change his tackle technique.”

Connacht head coach Andy Friend has warned Abraham Papali’i that he won’t be able to continue playing rugby unless he changes his tackling technique.

Powerful Kiwi number eight Papali’i was shown a red card for the third time since joining Connacht in August last year, after a high tackle in his side’s 20-12 loss to Benetton in the Rainbow Cup at the weekend.

That loss ended Connacht’s hopes of reaching the Rainbow Cup final, and while Papali’i’s red card offence came late on in the game, it hurt his side’s chances of snatching a late winner against Benetton.

Andy Friend: Abraham Papali’i needs to change his tackling technique.

Friend was speaking to the Irish Independent about the New Zealander’s disciplinary problems and warned Papali’i that he could not continue to play him if he is being consistently sent off.

“It depends on how much time he’s going to get off, but he’ll have a bit of time, I’d imagine,” Friend said.

“The bottom line is that he needs to change his tackle technique. If he doesn’t, well, he won’t keep playing rugby union.

“It’s as simple as that, because you can’t have a player continually getting red cards. The sanctions are going to become bigger on him and it’s impossible to stay in the game if you do that.”

Andy Friend: Papali’i can be devastating.

Papali’i started his career in rugby league, where he would have been encouraged to tackle around the chest area to prevent opposition players from offloading the ball after contact.

However, his tendency to tackle high has had disastrous results for him since he came to Connacht, and he is currently waiting to hear the length of his third suspension in less than a year.

Despite his disciplinary issues, the sizeable back-row forward has been impressive with ball in hand since coming to Ireland and has the potential to be a crucial part of Connacht’s pack.

Friend clearly has faith in Papali’i after the New Zealander was offered a one-year contract extension last month, but the Australian head coach acknowledged that the 27-year-old would need to change ahead of his next game.

“We’ve got to use whatever time we’ve got where he won’t be playing – hopefully it’s around the six-week mark, I reckon is what he will probably get – to take out the poor habits that he’s got from his rugby league days and get him tackling low,” Friend explained.

“When he does tackle low, as we’ve seen, he can be devastating, so we’ve got to break a habit that’s there at the moment and we’ve got to do that pretty quickly.”

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