After two successive defeats, Connacht will hope to get their Magners League campaign back on track by beating leaders Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm)
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, October 12
CARDIFF BLUES v CONNACHT, Arms Park, 7.30pm
Team News: Ireland World Cup squad member Gavin Duffy has been named at full-back in the Connacht team for the province’s Magners League trip to Cardiff.
Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made five changes in all to the side that started last week’s disappointing 16-15 defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors at Firhill. Duffy’s inclusion is the only change in the backs, with Peter Durcan the player to miss out.
Up front, John Fogarty, Robbie Morris, Ray Ofisa and John Muldoon, who will captain the side, return to the starting line-up. Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael McCarthy and Colm Rigney all make way, with flanker McCarthy the only one of those players to make the replacements bench.
Meanwhile, former Lions Tom Shanklin, Martyn Williams and Gethin Jenkins all return for the Cardiff Blues as coach David Young makes ten changes to the side that beat Munster at Musgrave Park last Friday.
Tal Selley and Shanklin will form a new centre partnership with Rhys Williams returning to the wing and Dai Flanagan making his first start of the season at number 10. In the second row there is also a new partnership with Paul Tito and Deiniol Jones starting.
In the front row Gethin Jenkins and Scott Roberts start with Mark Lewis and Martyn Williams starting in the back row. Having started all the games so far this season, Xavier Rush and Nick Robinson are rested.
Cardiff: Ben Blair; Rhys Williams, Tal Selley, Tom Shanklin, Tom James; Dai Flanagan, Richie Rees; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Scott Roberts, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito, Scott Morgan, Martyn Williams, Mark Lewis.
Replacements: Taufa’ao Filise, Rhys Thomas, Bradley Davies, Ma’ama Molitika, Jason Spice, Nick Macleod, Gareth Thomas/Jamie Roberts.
Connacht: Gavin Duffy; Ofisa Treviranus, Mel Deane, Aidan Wynne, Keith Matthews; Tim Donnelly, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, David Gannon, Ray Ofisa, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Joe Merrigan, Brian McGovern, Andrew Browne, Michael McCarthy, Conor O’Loughlin, Peter Durcan, Alipate Tuilevuka.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Coach Speak: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Cardiff are a very strong side. They were very close to winning the Magners League last year and they’ve started this season very well. They had a great win last week against Munster at Musgrave Park which will fill them with confidence and they are a very difficult side to beat in the Arms Park.
“But we have a few things to sort out ourselves and if we can correct those we can present them with a big challenge on Friday.”
David Young (Cardiff) – “Last year we had a narrow 15-13 win at home (against Connacht), and we were lucky to get that result. We drew 16-16 all out there and Connacht are always a team we struggle against. I’ve certainly got a lot of respect for their coach Michael Bradley. He is very innovative and makes you do your homework when it comes to analysing the way they play.
“They are a workmanlike side with no stars and a team that plays together week in, week out. They also don’t have many disruptions for international matches and know each others play extremely well. It is a hugely important game for us to win to keep us at the top of the table, however we know it will not be easy.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Cardiff: Nick Robinson 52; Connacht: Tim Donnelly 38; Tries: Cardiff: Jamie Roberts, Tal Selley, Tom James 3 each; Connacht: Robbie Morris, John Fogarty 1 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
September 13, 2003: Cardiff Blues 33 Connacht 17, Arms Park
February 21, 2004: Connacht 18 Cardiff Blues 21, Dubarry Park
September 24, 2004: Cardiff Blues 31 Connacht 6, Arms Park
January 22, 2005: Connacht 8 Cardiff Blues 18, The Sportsground
September 3, 2005: Connacht 13 Cardiff Blues 9, The Sportsground
April 29, 2006: Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 12, Arms Park
November 18, 2006: Cardiff Blues 15 Connacht 13, Arms Park
April 7, 2007: Connacht 16 Cardiff Blues 16, The Sportsground
– Cardiff Blues’ only defeat in their last six Magners League games was a 30-19 reversal at home to Leinster two weeks ago a loss which ended the Blues’ record home winning run of 17 matches.
– Connacht’s only win since March was a 22-7 victory at home to the Dragons on September 21. Connacht’s last win in Wales was a 10-9 success over the Ospreys at the Gnoll on November 21, 2004.
– Connacht’s only previous victory over the Blues was 13-9 in Galway on September 3, 2005. Connacht have won before at the Arms Park, beating Cardiff RFC 6-3 in the league on August 18, 2001.
CONNACHT MATCH REPORTS:
October 5 – Glasgow Warriors 16 Connacht 15
September 28 – Llanelli Scarlets 34 Connacht 11
September 21 – Connacht 22 Newport Gwent Dragons 7