Despite some notable injuries, Connacht look set to post another European Challenge Cup win before the Christmas break as they entertain Italian outfit Rugby Rovigo at the Sportsground.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 1: Friday, December 12
CONNACHT v RUGBY ROVIGO, The Sportsground, 6.30pm
Team News: Michael Bradley has made two changes to the Connacht side to face Rugby Rovigo in the European Challenge Cup at the Sportsground on Friday.
Adrian Flavin starts at hooker, while David Gannon comes into the Connacht back row for the injured Johnny O’Connor.
The only other change to the matchday 22 sees Mel Deane added to the replacements bench.
The players not considered due to injury were Liam Bibo (hamstring), Andy Dunne (knee), Ronan Loughney (hamstring), Joey Merrigan (shoulder), John Muldoon (knee), Johnny O’Connor (calf), Colm Rigney (knee), Mike Roberts (calf) and Samoan centre Niva Ta’auso (arm).
Previewing the game in the Galway Advertiser, Bradley said: “In Rovigo we felt we achieved our objective in getting a bonus point. As a result there will be an expectation that it will be achieved this week.
“But our attention to detail, which will be critical, needs to be at the required level. This is an important match because it can put us in a good position to qualify.
“We have now two away wins, and if we get a similar result this week it will put us in position for the last two pool matches (in the new year).
“London Irish, as the favourites, will be difficult away, and they look like going through as pool winners, but we should be in a position to qualify.”
CONNACHT: Fionn Carr; Troy Nathan, Gavin Duffy (capt), Keith Matthews, Daniel Riordan; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, David Gannon, Ray Ofisa, Michael McCarthy.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, John Lyne, Brett McGovern, Michael Swift, Kieran Campbell, Tim Donnelly, Mel Deane.
RUGBY ROVIGO: Stefan Basson; Juan Pablo Sanchez, Norman di Maura, German Bustos, Andrea Bacchetti; Stefano Ambrosio, Stefano Canale; Bruno Fortuna, Valerio Vicere, Matteo Sclosa, Marco Barion (capt), Daniele Tumiati, Simone Favaro, Niccolo Badocchi, Alfredo Giuria.
Replacements: Andrea de Marchi, Flavio Damiano, Younes Anouer, Jacobus Immelman, Nicola Pavin, Ettore Boarato, Filippo Aretusini.
Referee: David Rosich (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/100; Draw: 80/1; Rugby Rovigo to win: 16/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “We were obviously very pleased with the result last weekend. We went to Rovigo looking for a win in order to keep our qualification hopes alive so to have got the bonus point is a big boost to us.
“It was a tough game as Rovigo defended heroically but the match was hampered by a very heavy pitch after a lot of wet weather so it’s difficult to gauge what sort of game we are going to see this weekend.
“We showed some good continuity play and put together a lot of phases which is a positive we’ll take forward, as well as our scrummaging, which was particularly strong.
“Of course you’re always looking to improve but there’s nothing I took out of the game as an area of concern.
“We have a couple of injury worries. Johnny O’Connor is ruled out and Keith Matthews and Ronan Loughney both picked up knocks (in Italy) but I think we have enough depth in the squad to cover their possible absence.”
European Challenge Cup Top Scorers – Current Season: Connacht: Tries: Frank Murphy; Points: Ian Keatley 35; Rugby Rovigo: Tries: Luke Mahoney 3; Points: Stefan Basson 12;
Current Form – Connacht – (Magners League): Lost 16-3 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 45-3 away to the Scarlets; Won 15-8 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 58-0 away to Cardiff Blues; Won 19-18 at home to Leinster; (European Challenge Cup): Won 30-12 away to Dax; Lost 27-10 at home to London Irish; (Magners League): Lost 27-14 at home to Edinburgh; (Friendly): Won 27-11 at home to Portugal; (Magners League): Lost 53-13 away to Ulster; (European Challenge Cup): Won 35-20 away to Rugby Rovigo
Rugby Rovigo – (Italian Super 10): Lost 18-10 away to Petrarca Padova; Won 46-10 at home to Calvisano; Lost 20-16 away to Gran Parma; Won 36-16 at home to Capitolina; (European Challenge Cup): Lost 78-3 away to London Irish; Won 24-11 at home to Dax; (Italian Super 10): Won 30-20 away to Overmach Parma; Won 24-23 at home to Arix Viadana; Lost 13-10 at home to Benetton Treviso; (European Challenge Cup): Lost 35-20 at home to Connacht
Previous European Meetings: 2
Saturday, December 6, 2008 – Pool 1 – Rugby Rovigo 20 Connacht 35, Stadio Mario Battaglini
Sunday, October 11, 1998 – Pool 1 – Rugby Rovigo 20 Connacht 21, Stadio Mario Battaglini
European Challenge Cup Records:
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
Rugby Rovigo –
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Connacht to win by more than 10 points (with bonus point)