The bottom two teams in the Magners League will meet at the Sportsground tonight with Connacht, having lost their last three league games, in desperate need of the match points.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 6
CONNACHT (10th) v CARDIFF BLUES (9th), The Sportsground, 6.30pm
Team News: Connacht have made two changes to their side to face the Cardiff Blues for their Magners League clash with the Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground on Friday.
Troy Nathan starts at full-back with Gavin Duffy reverting to inside centre for the injured Niva Ta’auso.
In the other change, David Gannon comes in at blindside flanker for Colm Rigney, who picked up a knee injury against the Ospreys two weeks ago.
Johnny O’Connor has been named among the replacements having impressed in last week’s ‘A’ match against Ulster.
Young hooker Conor Muldoon has also named on the bench in place of the injured Adrian Flavin.
The following players were not considered due to injury – Adrian Flavin (leg), Brian McGovern (ankle), Colm Rigney (knee), Niva Ta’auso (hamstring) and Aidan Wynne (jaw).
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues will be without eight international players when they take on Connacht in Galway.
Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins and John Yapp will all remain with Wales’ RBS 6 Nations squad with only Robin Sowden Taylor returning for Blues duty.
The Blues recorded a 58-0 victory over Friday’sopponents the last time they played but coach Dai Young is not expecting a similar scoreline when they visit Ireland.
CONNACHT: Troy Nathan; Liam Bibo, Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, David Gannon, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Conor Muldoon, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Johnny O’Connor, Conor O’Loughlin, Andy Dunne, Mel Deane.
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Richard Mustoe, Jamie Robinson, Ceri Sweeney, Tom James; Nicky Robinson, Jason Spice; Rhys Gill, Rhys Thomas, Gary Powell, Deiniol Jones, Scott Morgan, Maama Molitika, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Taufa’ao Filise, Gareth Williams, James Down, Ben White, Richard Rees, Dai Flanagan, Chris Czekaj.
Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Mark Hermin, Seamus Flannery (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 7/4; Draw: 20/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 4/9
Say What: Dai Young (Cardiff Blues) – “Connacht are always a difficult team to play away, as everyone knows, and something I’ve been banging the drum about all week is our mental toughness.
‘It’s a game we know we have to win and we should win.
“We are very respectful of the opposition, but at the end of the day we have the determination and the honesty to know that we have to get the right result.
“The fact that we lose our internationals during the Six Nations and they don’t is certainly a leveller, as they play together and train together week in, week out.
“They pick up a lot of points during the international period but we can’t offer that as an excuse.
“You win or lose tournaments with your squads, not your teams, and this match will be a test of our squad.
“We know it will be difficult and a tight game and I certainly don’t expect it to be a 58-0 victory again, but I think we have enough quality players to cause them problems and I expect us to go there and win.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Ian Keatley 81; Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair 67; Tries: Connacht: Fionn Carr 3; Cardiff Blues: Leigh Halfpenny, Ma’ama Molitika, Ceri Sweeney 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, May 2, 2008 – Connacht 11 Cardiff Blues 39, The Sportsground
Friday, September 26, 2008 – Cardiff Blues 58 Connacht 0, Arms Park
– Connacht have lost their last three games in the Magners League since their momentous victory over Munster on December 28 last
– The westerners have won three of their last four games at the Sportsground in all competitions but have lost all five games they have played against Welsh sides this season
– The Cardiff Blues have won their last three matches in all competitions since their 21-20 defeat to Leinster at the RDS in the Magners League on January 10
– The Blues’ only away win in their last six away trips in the Magners League was a 21-19 triumph at the Dragons on December 26 last
– Connacht’s only previous win over the Blues was a 13-9 victory in Galway on September 3, 2005