Ireland’s Simon McDowell will be the man in the middle for the last ever Magners League match to be played at Stradey Park, as Connacht try to deny the Scarlets a winning send-off.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 13
SCARLETS v CONNACHT, Stradey Park, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/S4C)
Team News: Michael Bradley has made six changes to his Connacht side ahead of their Magners League clash with the Scarlets at Stradey Park on Saturday evening.
In the back-line, Troy Nathan comes into the side at full-back, Kieran Campbell gets his first competitive start for the province at scrum half and Aidan Wynne starts on the left wing.
In the forwards, Adrian Flavin gets his first start of the season at hooker and he is partnered on the tighthead side by Ronan Loughney, while Michael Swift has been promoted to the second row.
Team captain John Muldoon reverts back to number 8 with Mike McCarthy moving to blindside flanker.
The players not considered due to injury are Tim Donnelly (shoulder), John Hearty (groin), Robbie Morris (arm), Johnny O’Connor (arm), Conor O’Loughlin (hip), Danny Riordan (hamstring) and summer signing Michael Roberts (calf).
Meanwhile, Scarlets boss Nigel Davies has also made six changes – predictably tinkering with the team he fielded for the gutsy 27-25 win over the Dragons just three days ago.
Team captain Simon Easterby returns at blindside flanker after an impressive cameo performance at Rodney Parade.
Scrum half Martin Roberts, who scored a try last time out, is back at number 9.
Nathan Brew has been nudged over to inside centre with Mark Jones having recovered from the flu to take the injured Darren Daniel’s place on the right wing. The experienced Dafydd James is retained on the left wing.
In the pack, there are new props as Phil John and Deacon Manu come in for Iestyn Thomas and Kees Meeuws respectively.
SCARLETS: Morgan Stoddart; Mark Jones, Rob Higgitt, Nathan Brew, Dafydd James; Stephen Jones, Martin Roberts; Phil John, Matthew Rees, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Lou Reed, Simon Easterby (capt), Gavin Thomas, David Lyons.
Replacements: Kees Meeuws, Ken Owens, Dominic Day, Dafydd Jones, Sililo Martens, Ceiron Thomas, Jonathan Davies.
CONNACHT: Troy Nathan; Fionn Carr, Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews, Aidan Wynne; Ian Keatley, Kieran Campbell; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley, Mike McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Brian McGovern, Andrew Browne, Colm Rigney, Frank Murphy, Mel Deane, Liam Bibo.
Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Touch Judges: Matthew Alpin, Wayne Davies (both Wales)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “It’ll be the last time that Connacht will play at Stradey Park. We’ve enjoyed the atmosphere there and there’s a lot of tradition attached to the ground and I think the lads in the past have raised their game.
“We’ve had some very good results there in the past few years and last year I think this fixture went to both home sides.
“It’ll be a good challenge for us, they’ve a few good new signings and they would’ve been disappointed with their season last year.
“They’ve a strong start this year and they’d be obviously looking to have a good day against us on Saturday but we’re well used to that sort of pressure.
“Connacht have always responded well to the atmosphere and the venue and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “We need to be modest about what we have done so far. We have only won two games. There’s a lot of rugby to be played – we have to build game by game.
“Connacht are a decent team. They play some good rugby under Michael Bradley. They are innovative in what they do.
“It’s a massive game for us. It’s our first home game (of the season) and our last at Stradey in the competition.
“We are not going to take anything for granted. We are going to be focused in how we approach it.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Scarlets: Stephen Jones 28; Connacht: Ian Keatley 3; Tries: Scarlets: Darren Daniel, Martin Roberts, Nathan Brew 1 each; Connacht: -.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 17, 2005 – Scarlets 25 Connacht 17, Racecourse Ground
Saturday, February 18, 2006 – Connacht 33 Scarlets 19, The Sportsground
Friday, September 15, 2006 – Connacht 15 Scarlets 37, The Sportsground
Friday, May 11, 2007 – Scarlets 19 Connacht 10, Stradey Park
Friday, September 28, 2007 – Scarlets 34 Connacht 11, Stradey Park
Friday, January 4, 2008 – Connacht 20 Scarlets 18, The Sportsground
– The Scarlets will want to win their last ever Magners League game at the famous old Stradey Park, especially as they have lost their last three encounters at the venue
– The Scarlets have lost their last six encounters against Irish teams in all competitions
– Connacht won their last away game – 13-11 against the Dragons in Newport in April, but have not managed back-to-back away wins in the Magners League since the 2004/05 season
– Both sides won their respective home games when the two teams met in the Magners League last season. Connacht last won at Stradey Park on October 9, 2004