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Magners Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Magners Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Connacht will hope to follow up on last month’s win over Border Reivers when they take on Cardiff at the Sportsground on Saturday evening.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 7

CONNACHT (10th) v CARDIFF BLUES (5th), The Sportsground, 6.30pm

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Team News: Connacht have made four changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s league meeting with the Blues.

Centre Mark McHugh will captain the side in John Fogarty’s absence, and he will partner John Hearty in a new midfield partnership. Gavin Williams and Daniel Riordan are the players to make way.

Prop Stephen Knoop has recovered from a hamstring injury to take Ray Hogan’s place at tighthead. Michael Swift is included in the second row and he will partner Andrew Farley at lock for the first time since Connacht’s Challenge Cup match with Bath on January 12.

Swift has replaced David Gannon who picked up a calf injury in training. Meanwhile, young lock Andrew Browne, who was part of the Ireland Under-20s’ Grand Slam-winning side, has been named amongst the replacements – it is the Galwegians clubman’s first time in a Connacht matchday squad.

Cardiff have welcomed back three players from long-term injuries into their team for the trip to the west of Ireland.

Flanker Robin Sowden Taylor makes a welcome return having suffered a bad ankle dislocation and break in only the Blues’ second league match of the season.

Another back rower Andy Powell and centre Tom Riley have also returned to the matchday squad after shoulder injuries.

Blues coach Dai Young has made a number of changes to the side from the EDF Energy Cup semi-final against the Ospreys. Gethin Jenkins and Tom Shanklin return, while Mark Lewis and Bradley Davies are new inclusions in the pack.

Connacht: Gavin Duffy; Darren Yapp, John Hearty, Mark McHugh (capt), Conor McPhillips; Paul Warwick, Chris Keane; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Stephen Knoop, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon, Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Ray Hogan, Ryan Strudwick, Andrew Browne, Peter Durcan, David Slemen, Daniel Riordan.

Cardiff: Ben Blair; Tom James, Tom Shanklin (capt), Marc Stcherbina, Chris Czekaj; Nicky Robinson, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Taufa’ao Filise, Bradley Davies, Rob Sidoli, Scott Morgan, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Mark Lewis.

Replacements: Scott Roberts, Rhys Thomas, Deiniol Jones, Andy Powell, Ed Fairhurst, Nick Macleod, Tom Riley.

Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Trevor Collins, Paul Haycock (both Ireland)

Team League Statistics: Connacht: Top Points Scorer – Mark McHugh 101 (1 try, 9 conversions, 24 penalty goals and 2 drop goals); Top Try Scorer – Matt Mostyn 4

Cardiff: Top Points Scorer – Ben Blair 114 (3 tries, 15 conversions and 23 penalty goals); Top Try Scorers – Chris Czekaj, Ben Blair, Ben White, Xavier Rush, Thom James 3 each

Previous League Meetings:

September 2003 – Cardiff Blues 33 Connacht 17, Arms Park
February 2004 – Connacht 18 Cardiff Blues 21, Dubarry Park
September 2004 – Cardiff Blues 31 Connacht 6, Arms Park
January 2005 – Connacht 8 Cardiff Blues 18, The Sportsground
September 2005 – Connacht 13 Cardiff Blues 9, The Sportsground
April 2006 – Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 12, Arms Park
November 2006 – Cardiff Blues 15 Connacht 13, Arms Park

Match Facts:

– Connacht have won only one of their last nine encounters in all competitions – a 20-17 victory at home to Border Reivers on March 2

– Cardiff have won three of their last four games in the Magners League, and also triumphed on their last visit to Ireland. They beat Munster 19-12 at Musgrave Park on March 2

– Of the seven previous fixtures between the two teams, Connacht have won just once. The westerners were 13-9 winners at the Sportsground in September 2005

– Five penalties from the boot of Ben Blair were enough for the Blues to win last November’s clash between the sides – 15-13 – at the Arms Park. Matt Mostyn scored the game’s only try with Paul Warwick kicking two penalties and a conversion

– Warwick has been a consistent scorer against the Blues. The Australian-born out-half has scored 25 points in Connacht’s last four outings against the Welsh region