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European Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v Dax

European Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v Dax

Connacht will field a much-changed starting line-up against Dax as they attempt to qualify for the European Challenge quarter-finals for the first time since 2006. They need to beat the French side in Galway to confirm themselves as one of the three best placed runners-up.


CONNACHT v DAX, The Sportsground, 6.30pm

Team News: Connacht have made wholesale changes for their final European Challenge Cup Pool 1 encounter with Dax at the Sportsground on Friday night.

In all, there are 13 changes to the side which played London Irish last weekend as Connacht bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.

There is an all-new back-line with Gavin Duffy returning to full-back, Fionn Carr and Liam Bibo taking up position on the wings, Niva Ta’auso and Keith Matthews coming in in the centre and Frank Murphy and Ian Keatley renewing their half-back partnership.

Up front there is an all-new front row made up of Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin and Robbie Morris, with Mike McCarthy returning to the back row with Ray Ofisa and team captain John Muldoon coming in at number 8.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, Mike McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Colm Rigney, Kieran Campbell, Andy Dunne, Troy Nathan.

DAX: David Bortolussi; Laurent Diaz, Florian Argel, Federico Martin Aramburu, Bruno Hiriart; Maxime Petitjean, Jean Baptiste Pezet; Kas Lealamanua (capt), Jimmy Jaen, Nicolas Decamps, Anthony Mazel, Jean-Baptiste Cros, Bastien Adrillon, Justin Pendanx, Jannie Bornman.

Replacements: Jeremy Castex, Yves Pedrosa, Julien Brugnaut, Vincent Deniau, Nicolas Morlaes, Gavin Williams, Neumi Nanuku.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/16; Draw: 33/1; Dax to win: 13/2 

Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “We know exactly what has to be done to secure the place in the quarter-finals and we are looking forward to going out and hopefully achieving that target.

“The victories earlier in the pool have put us in a good position whereby we just need to win our final home match at home to secure a quarter-final place.

“That is a good position to be in but there is a job to be done on Friday and the players are looking forward to carrying out that task.”

European Challenge Cup Top Scorers – Current Season: Connacht: Tries: Frank Murphy 4; Points: Ian Keatley 45; Dax: Tries: Laurent Diaz, Bruno Hiriart, Duncan Bell, Jannie Bornman 1 each; Points: Maxime Petitjean 25

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; Won 30-3 at home to Rugby Rovigo; (Magners League): Won 12-6 at home to Munster; Lost 26-18 away to Leinster; Lost 17-14 at home to the Scarlets; (European Challenge Cup): Lost 75-5 away to London Irish

Dax – (French Championship): Lost 31-9 at home to Stade Francais; Lost 32-25 away to Toulouse; Lost 9-6 at home to Montpellier; Won 19-11 away to Castres Olympique; Won 30-18 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Lost 41-9 away to Brive; Won 27-17 at home to Bayonne; (European Challenge Cup): Lost 30-12 at home to Connacht; Lost 24-11 away to Rugby Rovigo; (French Championship): Lost 17-6 away to Perpignan; Won 32-10 at home to Bourgoin; Drew 20-20 at home to Montauban; Lost 12-6 away to Mont-de-Marsan; Won 13-6 away to Toulon; (European Challenge Cup): Lost 38-0 at home to London Irish; Lost 59-7 away to London Irish; (French Championship): Lost 20-16 at home to Clermont Auvergne; Lost 56-15 away to Stade Francais; Lost 25-9 at home to Toulouse; (European Challenge Cup): Won 22-20 at home to Rugby Rovigo

Previous European Meetings: 1

Friday, October 10, 2008 – Pool 1 – Dax 12 Connacht 30, Stade Maurice Boyau 

European Challenge Cup Records:

Connacht –
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

Dax –
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool 3

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Connacht to win by more than 14 points

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