Connacht have an arduous task this evening as they try to notch their first win at Rodney Parade since September 2001 – Michael Bradley’s charges renew rivalries with the Dragons, a side they beat 16-9 at the Sportsground in October.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, May 4
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (9th) v CONNACHT (10th), Rodney Parade, 7.10pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/BBC Wales)
Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made three changes as well as one positional switch to his team for tonight’s clash.
Stephen Knoop starts in place of Ray Hogan at tighthead prop and John Fogarty is recalled to captain the side in a reshuffled front row, in place of Adrian Flavin who is named among the replacements.
David Gannon returns in place of Michael Swift in the second row, with Swift set for bench duty. Gavin Duffy and Daniel Riordan swap positions from how they lined up for Connacht’s last game against Glasgow Warriors. Duffy is named at full-back with Riordan starting at outside centre. Encouragingly, former Ireland Under-21 prop Ronan Loughney has been named in a Connacht matchday squad for the first time since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in a pre-season friendly against Narbonne last August. He steps in to take the place of Brett Sturgess.
Meanwhile, the Dragons have made nine changes to the side that lost to the Cardiff Blues last Tuesday, with Aled Brew coming in on the left wing, Richard Fussell moving to the right and Gareth Wyatt going onto the replacements bench.
Coach Paul Turner’s other changes among the backs see a fit-again Paul Emerick come in for Phil Dollman and Alex Walker replacing Gareth Cooper (shoulder). There is an all-new front row with Adam Black replacing Dai Maddocks at loosehead prop, at hooker Steve Jones has recovered from his shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from the replacements bench for the Blues game (he takes over from Ben Daly), while Lee Harrison comes in for Rhys Thomas.
Ian Gough replaces Andrew Hall at lock while Colin Charvis comes in at openside flanker for Jamie Ringer.
Dragons: Kevin Morgan (capt); Richard Fussell, Paul Emerick, Gareth Maule, Aled Brew; Ceri Sweeney, Alex Walker; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Lee Harrison, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Joe Bearman, Colin Charvis, Michael Owen.
Replacements (from): Ben Daly, Jamie Corsi, Andrew Hall, Dan Lydiate, Gareth Wyatt, Aled Thomas, Phil Dollman, Gareth Baber.
Connacht: Gavin Duffy; Darren Yapp, Daniel Riordan, John Hearty, Conor McPhillips; Paul Warwick, Chris Keane; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty (capt), Stephen Knoop, David Gannon, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon, Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, David McGowan, Paul Durcan, Mark McHugh, Ted Robinson.
Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Gwyn Morris, David Jones (both Wales)
Team League Statistics: Dragons: Top Points Scorer – Ceri Sweeney 137 (2 tries, 14 conversions, 31 penalty goals and 2 drop goals); Top Try Scorers – Aled Brew, Adam Black 5 each
Connacht: Top Points Scorer – Mark McHugh 101 (1 try, 9 conversions, 24 penalty goals and 2 drop goals); Top Try Scorers – Matt Mostyn, Paul Warwick 4 each
Previous League Meetings:
November 23, 2003 – Dragons 28 Connacht 19, Rodney Parade
May 1, 2004 – Connacht 14 Dragons 32, The Sportsground
November 28, 2004 – Connacht 19 Dragons 14, The Sportsground
April 16, 2005 – Dragons 24 Connacht 19, Rodney Parade
January 6, 2006 – Dragons 27 Connacht 19, Rodney Parade
April 15, 2006 – Connacht 15 Dragons 10, The Sportsground
October 13, 2006 – Connacht 16 Dragons 9, The Sportsground
– The Dragons narrowly lost their impressive record at Rodney Parade last time out when Leinster were the visitors, ending a ten-game winning run at the venue in all competitions. The Newport-based team have beaten Irish opposition only once in their last eight attempts – they got the better of Munster on January 5, beating them 19-12 at home
– Connacht have won just one match in all competitions since early December – a 20-17 success against Border Reivers in Galway on March 2
– Connacht have not tasted victory on the road since the opening weekend of the season. They won 29-15 against the Border Reivers at Netherdale. Connacht’s last win in Wales was a 10-9 triumph over the Ospreys at the Gnoll in November 2004
– The last five matches between these two sides have all gone in favour of the home side on the day, while Connacht have not won at Rodney Parade since they beat Newport RFC 16-14 in September 2001