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Magners Preview: Llanelli v Connacht

Magners Preview: Llanelli v Connacht

Despite their recent poor form, Connacht still have a proud record to defend on Friday night as they remain the only Irish team to have won a league match at Stradey Park. However the Scarlets – in what is veteran prop John Davies’ last game – are not likely to be very welcoming hosts.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, May 11

LLANELLI SCARLETS (4th) v CONNACHT (10th), Stradey Park, 7.10pm

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Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made four changes, and two positional switches, to his side for their final match of the season against Llanelli Scarlets on Friday night.

John Hearty, Peter Durcan, Michael Swift and Ray Hogan all return to the starting line-up in place of Darren Yapp, Paul Warwick, Ray Ofisa and Stephen Knoop. Yapp is named among the replacements along with Connacht’s two members of the Irish Under-20 Grand Slam winning side, Aidan Wynne and Andrew Browne.

Daniel Riordan and Gavin Duffy exchange places in the team with Duffy moving to outside centre and Riordan reverting to full-back. David Gannon moves from the second row to blindside flanker for the first time as Michael Swift moves into the second row, with Ray Ofisa omitted due to a trial with the Samoan national team.

Ofisa has been in impressive form throughout Connacht’s campaign with the talented Samoan flanker having been named as the Aer Arann Connacht Players’ Player of the Season.

Llanelli boss Phil Davies has made ten changes to his side for their final league clash, with lock Scott MacLeod being the only survivor in the Welsh side’s pack from their win over Cardiff last time out.

In a notable change, Ceiron Thomas is preferred to Stephen Jones at out-half, with Barry Davies and Garan Evans also drafted in. The league’s joint-top try scorer, winger Darren Daniel, was a late withdrawal.

The game will mark prop John ‘Swampy’ Davies’ last ever outing in a Scarlets shirt. The 38-year-old former Welsh international is retiring to take up a coaching post with the Scarlets Academy.

Llanelli: Barry Davies; Garan Evans, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Matthew Watkins; Ceiron Thomas, Liam Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, John Davies, Adam Jones, Scott MacLeod, Dafydd Jones, James Bater (capt), Nathan Thomas.

Replacements: Craig Dunlea, Daniel George, Inoke Afeaki, John Mills, Clive Stuart-Smith, Daniel Evans, Paul Mackey.

Connacht: Daniel Riordan; John Hearty, Gavin Duffy, Mark McHugh, Conor McPhillips; Peter Durcan, Chris Keane; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty (capt), Ray Hogan, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley, David Gannon, John Muldoon, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, David McGowan, Andrew Browne, Aidan Wynne, Ted Robinson, Darren Yapp.

Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Touch Judges: James Jones, Greg Morgan (both Wales)

Team League Statistics: Llanelli: Top Points Scorer – Stephen Jones 116 (2 tries, 23 conversions and 20 penalty goals); Top Try Scorers – Barry Davies, Darren Daniel 7 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:

October 24, 2003 – Connacht 20 Llanelli 25, Dubarry Park
March 26, 2004 – Llanelli 33 Connacht 33, Stradey Park
October 9, 2004 – Llanelli 21 Connacht 29, Stradey Park
February 18, 2005 – Connacht 11 Llanelli 18, Dubarry Park
September 17, 2005 – Llanelli 25 Connacht 17, Racecourse Ground
February 18, 2006 – Connacht 33 Llanelli 19, The Sportsground
September 15, 2006 – Connacht 15 Llanelli 37, The Sportsground

Match Facts:

– Llanelli Scarlets have beaten Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues in successive weeks, while their only home league defeat since September 2005 was a 19-6 reversal against the Ospreys on April 24

– Connacht are winless in their last four games in the Magners League, since they beat Border Reivers 20-17 in Galway on March 2

– Connacht are the only Irish side to have won at Stradey Park in the league to date – doing so with a 29-21 victory in October 2004

– The Scarlets won 37-15 at the Sportsground in September and are going for a league ‘double’ over Connacht for the first time