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Magners Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Magners Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues

This is the last chance saloon for Connacht – they need a win and preferably one with a bonus point as they bid to stay in the hunt for Heineken Cup rugby. But worryingly they have only beaten the Cardiff Blues once in nine meetings.


CONNACHT v CARDIFF BLUES, The Sportsground, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made one change to his side ahead of Friday’s Magners League showdown with the Cardiff Blues.

Robbie Morris has recovered from his injury which kept him out of Connacht’s last match against the Dragons, to retake his position in the side at tighthead prop.

There are three changes to the replacements bench, as Samoan brothers Ofisa Treviranus and Ray Ofisa are both named in the matchday 22 for the first time since December, having recovered from their respective injuries.

Former England Under-21 back rower Michael McCarthy is also recalled to the province’s squad after four weeks out.

Meanwhile, Deiniol Jones will become the first player to play 100 games for the Cardiff Blues in Friday’s clash.

Jones, who joined the Blues from the Celtic Warriors in 2004 and as been one of the most consistent performers for the Blues over recent seasons.

Cardiff captain Xavier Rush returns from a bicep injury to lead the team in Galway and, in all, there are four changes to the Blues side that started against Ulster two weeks ago.

Jason Spice replaces Richie Rees at nine, Rhys Thomas starts at hooker and Scott Morgan at lock.

Amongst the Welsh region’s replacements, there is a return for Bradley Davies who, due to injury, has not made a competitive start since November.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Matt Mostyn, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Danny Riordan; Troy Nathan, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, David Gannon, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Ronan Loughney, Michael McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, Robbie Shaw, Andy Dunne, Ofisa Treviranus.

CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin, Gareth Thomas, Tom James; Nicky Robinson, Jason Spice; Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Thomas, Taufa’ao Filise, Deiniol Jones, Scott Morgan, Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush (capt).

Replacements: John Yapp, Gareth Williams, Bradley Davies, Ben White, Mark Lewis, Richie Rees, Dai Flanagan.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Our approach to this game is that it’s an opportunity to still qualify for next seasons Heineken Cup.

“We’ve been playing well enough and we’ll be trying to match the level of performance we’ve achieved in recent weeks.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to beat Cardiff and keep qualification alive until the final day of the season against the Ospreys.

“We played quite well in the first half (against the Dragons) and varied our play and it kept the Dragons at bay.

“They weren’t able to anticipate what we were doing and also it created opportunities for us and I thought we got the better of the first half.

“In the second half the Dragons readjusted and created a lot of chances themselves and had a lot of opportunities to win the game in the third quarter.

“But we survived with some excellent defensive work in particular from Conor McPhillips. Then having gotten one opportunity in the second half to score, we took it.

“To get the four points in an away win against a Welsh side was very pleasing and it keeps us in with an opportunity going into this week’s game against Cardiff.”

David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “On paper it’s a game we should go out and win but unfortunately for whatever reason, they have been a bit of a banana skin for us.

“We realise that and know it’s a very important game but it’s a difficult place to get a result. They are a determined team and play on your mistakes.

“With the team that we have selected, I fully expect us to get the result. It won’t be easy, but I expect the quality in our team to shine through.

“It’s been a talking point for us to be the best-placed Welsh team at the end of the season and a win on Friday should cement that.

“Being second in the league is a bit out of our hands, because it depends how Munster do, but being second isn’t as important to me as being the best Welsh team.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Tim Donnelly 82; Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair 75; Tries: Connacht: Robbie Morris, Conor O’Loughlin, Danny Riordan 2 each; Cardiff Blues: Tom James 8.


Saturday, September 13, 2003 – Cardiff Blues 33 Connacht 17, Arms Park
Saturday, February 21, 2004 – Connacht 18 Cardiff Blues 21, Dubarry Park
Friday, September 24, 2004 – Cardiff Blues 31 Connacht 6, Arms Park
Saturday, January 22, 2005 – Connacht 8 Cardiff Blues 18, The Sportsground
Saturday, September 3, 2005 – Connacht 13 Cardiff Blues 9, The Sportsground
Saturday, April 29, 2006 – Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 12, Arms Park
Saturday, November 18, 2006 – Cardiff Blues 15 Connacht 13, Arms Park
Saturday, April 7, 2007 – Connacht 16 Cardiff Blues 16, The Sportsground
Friday, October 12, 2007 – Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 16, Arms Park


– Connacht won 13-11 against the Newport Gwent Dragons in their most recent outing but they have not won successive matches in the Magners League since September 2006

– Connacht are unbeaten at home in their last four matches against Welsh sides since the Llanlli Scarlets won in Galway on September 15, 2006

– The Cardiff Blues have won their last three matches in the Magners League against Edinburgh, Llanelli and Ulster. The Blues have won four of their last five games against Irish teams

– Connacht have met the Blues on nine previous occasions and been victorious just once – they won 13-9 at the Sportsground on September 3, 2005