Connacht renew rivalries this evening with NEC Harlequins, the team that knocked them out of the 2003/04 Challenge Cup, in their seventh straight home game of the season.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 4: Friday, October 20
CONNACHT v NEC HARLEQUINS, The Sportsground, 7pm
Connacht: Daniel Riordan; Matt Mostyn, Paul Warwick, Gavin Williams, Darren Yapp; Mark McHugh (capt), Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, Adrian Flavin, Brett Sturgess, David Gannon, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon, Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: John Fogarty, Brett Wilkinson, Michael Swift, Brendan O'Connor, Tom Tierney, Keith Matthews, Ted Robinson.
Harlequins: Mike Brown; Tom Williams, Gavin Duffy, Jordan Turner-Hall, Ugo Monye; Adrian Jarvis, Andy Gomarsall; Ceri Jones, Tani Fuga, Mike Ross, Ollie Kohn, Nicolas Spanghero, Nick Easter, Paul Volley (capt), Chris Hala'Ufia.
Replacements: James Hayter, Lorne Ward, Jimmy Evans, Tom Guest, Andre Vos, Danny Care, Craig McMullen.
Referee: Eric Darriere (France)
Touch Judges: Cedric Marchet, Eric Soulan (both France)
Coach Speak: Michael Bradley (Connacht) - "It is true that we know the competition pretty well but we are in an extremely tough pool along with Quins, Bath - who have won the Heineken Cup - and Montpellier and, while qualifying for the quarter-finals is naturally our initial aim, it promises to be a bit of a dogfight."
Dean Richards (Harlequins) - "This week is a strange one for us in that we play Connacht in Ireland on Friday night, thus limiting the time we have to re-group and put a few things right. Connacht are a decent side and will play a different type of rugby - a similar scenario to what we witnessed at Llanelli a couple of weeks ago. Connacht, however, are not top of the table like Llanelli and the lads are confident of breaking our duck this weekend."
...The Connacht scrum in action...
PREVIOUS EUROPEAN MEETINGS:
April 2004 - ECC Semi-Final: First Leg: NEC Harlequins 31 Connacht 22, The Stoop
April 2004 - ECC Semi-Final: Second Leg: Connacht 23 NEC Harlequins 18, The Sportsground
CHALLENGE CUP HISTORY:
Connacht - 05/06: Quarter-finals; 04/05: Semi-finals; 03/04: Semi-finals; 02/03: Quarter-finals; 01/02: Pool 4; 00/01: Pool 2; 99/00: Pool 4; 98/99: Pool 1; 97/98: Quarter-finals; 96/97: Pool 3
Harlequins - 03/04: Champions; 02/03: Round 2; 00/01: Champions
2005/06 FORM: Connacht - (Sept 1-Oct 13) WWLDLLW
Harlequins - (Sept 2-Oct 15) LLLLLLL
- Connacht's captain for this evening, out-half Mark McHugh will be making his 25th appearance in the Challenge Cup. The Dubliner has made 18 starts and six appearances as a replacement in the competition for Connacht, scoring 82 points (6 tries, 5 conversions and 14 penalties).
McHugh also lined out seven times for Leinster in the Heineken Cup between 1999 and 2001
- Connacht's top scorers in Challenge Cup history have been Eric Elwood, the team's current assistant coach, with 473 points in 53 games, and current centre-cum-out-half Paul Warwick, who has tallied up 135 points in 13 caps.
Harlequins' top scorer in European rugby is former Munster out-half Paul Burke (200 points). He is currently playing for Leicester Tigers
- Connacht number eight Colm Rigney will be looking to continue his European form from last season when he bagged three tries in seven starts in the competition.
Centre Keith Matthews, 24, scored six tries in six appearances in last year's Challenge Cup, including an opening day hat-trick against Catania. 'Quins winger Ugo Monye's try total in Europe stands at four in six games
- 'Quins coach Dean Richards played eight times for Leicester in the Heineken Cup before his playing career ended
- There are four Irish players in the current 'Quins squad - current Ireland utility back Gavin Duffy, former Ireland squad member Mel Deane, former Leinster scrum half/winger Simon Keogh, who played for Ireland 'A' last summer and ex-Cork Constitution prop Mike Ross.
The 26-year-old tighthead Ross signed a full contract with 'Quins in the summer and has made three starts so far
- Galway star Daniel Riordan, who has become a firm favourite at the Sportsground since making the full-back position his own, will make his first start in the Challenge Cup this evening.
The 22-year-old was used as a replacement in the pool matches against Catania and Montpellier last October
- Connacht have amassed 193 points in each of their last two Challenge Cup campaigns. The westerners scored 25 tries, 16 conversions, 11 penalties and 1 drop goal in seven games last season, while the previous year saw them accumulate 18 tries, 11 conversions, 25 penalties and 2 drop goals in their eight fixtures
- Front rowers Adrian Flavin and Brett Sturgess will be making their Challenge Cup debuts this evening for Connacht, although the pair played in last season's competition for London Irish and Northampton respectively. Samoan flanker Ray Ofisa has yet to play in the competition