Connacht did the double over the Newport Gwent Dragons and they will be chasing a morale-boosting victory over the Welsh visitors tonight, as they look to build momentum for next week’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 3
CONNACHT (10th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (9th), The Sportsground, 6.30pm
Team News: Connacht have made four changes to their side ahead of the visit of the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground on Friday.
Both Niva Ta’auso and Frank Murphy have overcome their respective hamstring and calf injuries to start for Connacht in the back-line against the Dragons.
Meanwhile, up front, Ronan Loughney comes in at tighthead prop and Ireland international Johnny O’Connor returns to the starting line up at openside.
Former Ireland squad member Gavin Duffy moves from outside centre to full-back, making way for Ta’auso’s inclusion.
Andrew Browne has moved to his more familiar position in the second row, with Ray Ofisa starting for Connacht for the first time at number eight.
Kieran Campbell (hip), Tim Donnelly (knee), John Hearty (hip), Michael McCarthy (foot) and Robbie Morris (foot) were not considered due to their respective injuries.
Meanwhile, Dragons boss Paul Turner has named his side to face Connacht and it includes the league’s joint-top try scorer, Richard Fussell (six tries).
Recent Sevens World Cup winner Tom Isaacs has withdrawn with a hip injury, while Aled Brew is set to make his first start since returning to the region.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brian McGovern, Michael Swift, Colm Rigney, Conor O’Loughlin, Andy Dunne, Troy Nathan.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Kevin Morgan; Richard Fussell, Rory Sidey, Ashley Smith, Aled Brew; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys Thomas, Sean Tomes, Luke Charteris, Hoani Macdonald, Richard Parks, Joe Bearman.
Replacements: Steve Jones, Nigel Hall, Adam Jones, Danny Lydiate, Martyn Thomas, Shaun Connor, Robert Lewis.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Dermot Moloney (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 8/11; Draw: 22/1; Dragons to win: 11/10
Say What: John Muldoon (Connacht) – “We were very disappointed with our performance against Edinburgh. We just didn’t hold onto the ball and if you don’t hold onto the ball, you don’t win games. We never got into the game in the first half.
“We were left chasing the game. We’re bitterly disappointed. The standard of play we had is simply not good enough there. We’re better than this.
“We are a bloody good team and it’s time we showed it consistently. We’ve got a couple of very important games, starting with the Dragons – we need to get points out of these games.
“Hopefully we’ll put in a good performance and get the win. We’ve targeted this as a win and nothing else will suffice.”
Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “We’ve prepared really well for this game. Connacht are a very good side on their home patch and we have had difficulties getting results over in Galway in past seasons.
“We are well aware of the difficulties of playing in Galway but are buoyed by our recent form and a great spirit within the Dragons camp.
“We are always well aware of our need to move up the Magners League over the coming weeks and we see this as a vital game enabling us to do that.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Ian Keatley 90; Dragons: James Arlidge 62; Tries: Connacht: Fionn Carr 3; Dragons: Richard Fussell 6
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, January 6, 2006 – Newport Gwent Dragons 27 Connacht 19, Rodney Parade
Saturday, April 15, 2006 – Connacht 15 Newport Gwent Dragons 10, The Sportsground
Friday, October 13, 2006 – Connacht 16 Newport Gwent Dragons 9, The Sportsground
Friday, May 4, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 23 Connacht 0, Rodney Parade
Friday, September 21, 2007 – Connacht 22 Newport Gwent Dragons 7, The Sportsground
Friday, April 18, 2008 – Newport Gwent Dragons 11 Connacht 13, Rodney Parade
– Connacht have lost their last five games in the Magners League since their 12-6 win at home to Munster on December 28 last
– The westerners have lost all six encounters they have had so far with Welsh sides this season
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won two of their last three Magners League matches including a 25-20 victory at Glasgow on January 9
– The Dragons are attempting to win back-to-back away games in the league for the first time since September 2006. The Dragons have won just once in Ireland since October 2004 (16-14 at Ulster on September 19, 2008
– Connacht have won four of their last five games against the Dragons, whilst the Welsh region’s only previous victory in Galway was a 32-14 success on May 1, 2004