The two teams at the foot of the Magners League table will meet as the Sportsground tonight as Connacht entertain Cardiff in a crucial clash. Michael Bradley described last weekend's eight-try defeat to Edinburgh as 'embarrassing', so a big backlash is expected from the John Muldoon-skippered home side.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 18
CONNACHT (10th) v CARDIFF BLUES (9th), The Sportsground, 7pm
Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made two changes to the team for Friday's Magners League game against the Cardiff Blues.
Ireland training squad member Brett Wilkinson returns from injury and starts at loosehead prop, with Ronan Loughney included among the replacements.
Recent signing Miah Nikora will make his first competitive start for Connacht, taking over from Ian Keatley at out-half.
Prop Robbie Morris and centre Niva Ta'auso were not considered because of injury.
Meanwhile, Lions centre Jamie Roberts will return to the Cardiff Blues side for Friday's trip to Galway.
Roberts takes the place of Dafydd Hewitt in the centre, with Richie Rees also getting the nod over Gareth Cooper at scrum half.
The Blues management have made three changes to the pack - hooker Gareth Williams, lock Bradley Davies and flanker Sam Warburton come in for Rhys Thomas, Deiniol Jones and Robin Sowden-Taylor respectively.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Troy Nathan, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Andrew Browne, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, Mike McComish.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O'Connor, Conor O'Loughlin, Ian Keatley, Aidan Wynne.
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Gareth Thomas, Jamie Roberts, Chris Czekaj; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; John Yapp, Gareth Williams, Taufa'au Filise, Bradley Davies, Paul Tito (capt), Ma'ama Molitika, Sam Warburton, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Gary Powell, Rhys Thomas, Deiniol Jones, Andy Powell, Gareth Cooper, Sam Norton-Knight, Gavin Evans.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland) Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Peter Roche (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power):Connacht to win: 12/5; Draw: 22/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 3/10
Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) - "The performance in Edinburgh was unacceptable. It was an embarrassing result and we need to respond quickly to it.
"We have been working hard all week to eliminate the errors from our play.
"We do not want to experience being down to 13 men again. If we continue to hand an advantage to the opposition we will be punished.
"The DVD of the Edinburgh match made for some very unpleasant viewing. Hopefully the crowd will get behind us this weekend and lead us to a good result."
Dai Young (Cardiff Blues) - "I think our performance against Munster was far more spirited and far more together than our match against Edinburgh, where we looked totally disjointed.
"Having said that, our primary possession especially in the lineout just wasn't good enough and also our play in the contact area needs to improve.
"Connacht are a very abrasive team and very confident at home. It always seems to be windy over in Galway and they play the conditions well.
"They are a very difficult team to beat over in Ireland as the Ospreys found on the opening weekend. If you look back at last year, if I'm being honest it was a game that we sneaked right at the end. We are under no illusions - we always find it difficult over there.
"Where we are at the moment, I feel the next two matches are massive games for us. We want to get the win under our belt and then we face the Scarlets at home."
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, November 18, 2006 - Cardiff Blues 15 Connacht 13, Arms Park Saturday, April 7, 2007 - Connacht 16 Cardiff Blues 16, The Sportsground Friday, October 12, 2007 - Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 16, Arms Park Friday, May 2, 2008 - Connacht 11 Cardiff Blues 39, The Sportsground Friday, September 26, 2008 - Cardiff Blues 58 Connacht 0, Arms Park Friday, March 6, 2009 - Connacht 14 Cardiff Blues 19, The Sportsground
- Connacht slipped to their sixth straight defeat in the Magners League against table-topping Edinburgh at Murrayfield last Friday
- The westerners have won just one of their last nine matches against Welsh opposition (39-17 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons on April 3 last)
- Cardiff Blues have lost their last four games in the Magners League and have only once before lost five in-a-row in the competition - from November 2004 to January 2005
- The Blues have won on two of their last three visits to Ireland
- Connacht's only victory in the dozen previous encounters with the Blues was a 13-9 triumph at the Sportsground on September 3, 2005