CONNACHT (10th) v BENETTON TREVISO (11th), the Sportsground, 5pm (live Galway Bay FM)
Team News: The Connacht team to face Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground on Saturday has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to the side that gained a bonus point win over Zebre just five days ago.
The 20-year-old Robbie Henshaw has been released from Ireland camp to take up the position of full-back in an otherwise unchanged Connacht back-line.
Scrum half Kieran Marmion is in line to earn his 50th cap on Saturday, having played in every Connacht game since his debut at the beginning of the 2012/13 season and starting in all but two of those fixtures.
Up front, Aly Muldowney replaces Michael Swift for his fourth start of the season. The 6ft 5in lock will partner Michael Kearney in the second row.
Galway-born Eoin McKeon makes a welcome return from injury to start at number 8 in a back row unit which includes Academy forward Eoghan Masterson and captain John Muldoon.
Veteran prop Nathan White is named on the bench, while Connacht centurion Frank Murphy gets the nod as the reserve scrum half.
Tickets for the round 16 fixture are available online from tickets.ie, from the Connacht Rugby office and from Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.
Connacht Rugby are launching their 'Strength in Numbers' campaign this week. The province will hold a celebration of Women's rugby at the Connacht v Treviso game on Saturday.
This date was specifically chosen to coincide with International Women's Day and the Ireland Women's team's historic debut appearance at the Aviva Stadium the following weekend.
The event will involve a series of player interviews, information stands for potential recruits, and some informal introductory skills sessions, and should help propel Women's rugby firmly into the local spotlight. Go to www.connachtrugby.ie/women for more information.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso boss Marius Goosen has made seven changes to the team that started the narrow home defeat to Ulster in the last round.
He can call on seven players who are back from international duty - flankers Robert Barbieri, Paul Derbyshire and Manoa Vosawai, prop Lorenzo Cittadini, winger Angelo Esposito, centre Alberto Sgarbi and lock and captain Antonio Pavanello.
In addition, scrum half Tobie Botes will be looking to make a point to Italy head coach Jacques Brunel who has omitted him from his squad for the final two Six Nations matches.
Treviso have included two permit players in their 23-man panel for the trip to Galway - they are centre Joe van Niekerk from Vea Femi CZ Rugby Rovigo and Petrarca Padova prop Romulo Acosta.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O'Halloran, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Fionn Carr; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: David Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Danie Poolman.
BENETTON TREVISO: Angelo Esposito; Ludovico Nitoglia, Alberto Sgarbi, Joe van Niekerk, Andrea Pratichetti; Mat Berquist, Tobie Botes; Matteo Muccignat, Giovanni Maistri, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Corniel van Zyl, Manoa Vosawai, Paul Derbyshire, Marco Filippucci.
Replacements: Franco Sbaraglini, Romulo Acosta, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Marco Fuser, Valerio Bernabò, Robert Barbieri, Fabio Semenzato, Brendan Williams.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Will O'Connor (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/9; Draw: 20/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 7/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) - "With another six-day turnaround this week it's important to have fresh legs available in Robbie (Henshaw) and players like Eoin (McKeon) coming back from injury.
"Denis (Buckley) and Rodney (Ah You) both put in man-of-the-match performances in the last three games and they deservedly retain their starting spots this week. But it's great to be able to call on the experience of Nathan (White) from the bench.
"Aly (Muldowney) has been training and playing very well these last few weeks and he deserves his chance to start against Treviso tomorrow.
"It's also such a great achievement for young Kieran (Marmion) to have reached the 50-cap milestone. The fact that he has played 50 consecutive games since his senior debut is testament to his ability, his durability and his sheer toughness.
"This week, coming up against Treviso, has been all about focus. Coming off the back of two wins, we understand what we need to do ourselves to make it three in-a-row.
"Against Ulster last week and also when we played them in October, Treviso showed what they're made of and the type of challenge they present. Going into the break we want to finish off this block of games on a high - for us and for our supporters."
Top Scorers - 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht - Points: Dan Parks 78; Tries: Matt Healy, Fionn Carr, Kieran Marmion 3 each; Benetton Treviso - Points: Mat Berquist 110; Tries: Ludovico Nitoglia 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, March 4, 2011 - Connacht 31 Benetton Treviso 25, the Sportsground
Saturday, September 3, 2011 - Benetton Treviso 9 Connacht 11, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, December 2, 2011 - Connacht 13 Benetton Treviso 15, the Sportsground
Saturday, November 3, 2012 - Connacht 18 Benetton Treviso 3, the Sportsground
Friday, April 26, 2013 - Benetton Treviso 23 Connacht 23, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, October 4, 2013 - Benetton Treviso 23 Connacht 3, Stadio di Monigo
- Connacht have won their last two fixtures in the RaboDirect PRO12, at home to Edinburgh and away at Zebre but have not won three in-a-row in the league for exactly 12 months
- Connacht have faced Italian opponents on five occasions this season in all competitions and lost only once: 23-3 in Treviso in round 5 of the PRO12
- Just one Italian side has ever beaten Connacht at the Sportsground in any competition: Benetton Treviso, who did so 15-13 in the PRO12 back in December 2011
- Benetton Treviso have won just once in the PRO12 since round 5: 20-15 at home to Zebre on December 28
- Treviso have not won on the road in the league since their victory at the Scarlets in round 22 last season
- The two sides have met on seven previous occasions in the PRO12 with honours even at three wins apiece plus a draw
|26/2/17||Benetton Rugby||19 - 34||Connacht Rugby||1,500|
|3/12/16||Connacht Rugby||47 - 8||Benetton Rugby||5,903|
|29/4/16||Benetton Treviso||22 - 21||Connacht Rugby||3,700|