Connacht will need to keep their wits about them if they are to overturn Brive tonight in the French club’s backyard and get their European Challenge Cup off to a winning start (Parc Municipal des Sports, kick-off 7.30pm local time).
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 3: Friday, November 9
BRIVE v CONNACHT, Parc Municipal des Sports, 7.30pm local time
Team News: The Connacht team for tonight’s European Challenge Cup pool opener against Brive is unchanged to the one which lost to Leinster last week, apart from one positional switch.
The positional switch sees Keith Matthews swap with Aidan Wynne, as he moves from the left wing to inside centre with European debutant Wynne moving in the opposite direction.
From the matchday squad for last Friday’s Magners League defeat to Leinster, back rower Colm Rigney is the only new inclusion. He is listed amongst the replacements and will become the ninth player to reach a century of caps for Connacht if he is sprung from the bench.
Meanwhile. Olivier Magne’s first team selection as Brive coach includes plenty of foreign talent in the backs in Wales full-back Barry Davies, former South African Under-21 centre Ronnie Cooke, England-capped centre Ben Johnston, Fijian World Cup player Norman Ligairi and Italian international out-half Luciano Orquera.
The side is captained by the 31-year-old second row Fabien Domingo who has scored Brive’s only try in their two Top 14 Championship matches to date this season.
Included on the hosts’ replacements bench is England’s 2003 World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson, who came out of a brief injury enforced retirement to sign a three-year contract with the French club last month.
A neck injury looked set to end the 29-year-old’s career but a specialist in Lyon has given him the all-clear to resume playing.
BRIVE: Barry Davies; Filimino Boleavucu, Ronnie Cooke, Ben Johnston, Norman Ligairi; Luciano Orquera, Gregory Mahe; Pierre Capdevielle, Jawad Djoudi, Andres Bordoy, Johan van Zyl, Fabien Domingo (capt), Vincent Forgues, Jerome Bonvoisin, Ryno Van der Merwe.
Replacements: Jean-Philippe Bonrepaux, Luke Harbut, Scott Franklin, Steve Thompson, Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, Suka Hufanga, Maxime Petitjean.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Ofisa Treviranus, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Aidan Wynne; Tim Donnelly, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley (capt), Michael McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brian McGovern, Colm Rigney, Ray Ofisa, Conor O’Loughlin, Peter Durcan, Darren Yapp.
Referee: Andrew Small (England)
Coach Speak: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Brive are a big solid side and the’ve a couple of players who represented Tonga and Fiji in the World Cup available in their backline, It’s going to be a physical challenge as all the French 14 club sides are.
“That’ll be our first hurdle and if we can match that we’ve the systems in place to create opportunities and it’s up to us to convert them after that.
“It is vital in a pool situation to concentrate on the next game and not get distracted about what else is happening or other permutations. That means for us it is Brive away this Friday, we will worry about El Salvador after that and then the back to back games against Newcastle.
“We know at this stage what to expect from a French team. They will be under pressure not to lose at home and that will give an edge to the game. But our lads know, too, what is required out there, the discipline needed to carve out a result.”
Top Scorers: Brive – 2007/08 Top 14 Championship – Points: Maxime Petitjean 17; Tries: Fabien Domingo 1 each.
Connacht – 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Tim Donnelly 67; Tries: Robbie Morris 2.
PREVIOUS EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP MEETINGS:
– Brive were Heineken Cup campions ten years ago and they are the 14th French club Connacht will encounter in the European Challenge Cup. Connacht are well used to winning on French soil, having beaten Begles Bordeaux, Narbonne, Beziers, Montpellier, Mont de Marsan and Grenoble since the 1997/98 season
– Brive changed their coaches only last Friday with Richard Crespy being replaced by former France back rower Olivier Magne, a native of Brive and an ex-club player. Crespy’s dismissal followed a brace of Top 14 defeats at the hands of Bayonne and Biarritz
– Eric Elwood, the current Connacht assistant coach, remains the European Challenge Cup’s record points scorer with 473 points in 53 matches. The province’s new out-half, Australian Tim Donnelly, ironically played for Brive in last season’s Challenge Cup, kicking two conversions in Brive’s 26-13 pool win over Montauban
CONNACHT MAGNERS LEAGUE REPORTS:
November 2: Leinster 29 Connacht 9
October 26: Connacht 14 Edinburgh 14
October 12: Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 16
October 5: Glasgow Warriors 16 Connacht 15
September 28: Llanelli Scarlets 34 Connacht 11
September 21: Connacht 22 Newport Gwent Dragons 7