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Magners Preview: Connacht v Ulster

Magners Preview: Connacht v Ulster

The first provincial derby of the season takes place at the Sportsground tonight as Connacht, buoyed by last weekend’s triumph over Cardiff, try to end a six match losing streak against Ulster. The visitors will be without the injured Stephen Ferris but Grand Slam winners Paddy Wallace and Tom Court are set to make their first starts of the campaign.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 25

CONNACHT (9th) v ULSTER (8th), The Sportsground, 8pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made one change to his team for Friday’s Magners League meeting with Ulster at the Sportsground.

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Ian Keatley, who scored eight points as a replacement in last week’s win over Cardiff, returns to the starting line-up at out-half in place of the injured Miah Nikora.

With New Zealander Nikora ruled out of the matchday squad, Liam Bibo, who played at out-half for Buccaneers last week, will provide cover for Keatley on the bench.

Young prop Jamie Hagan, a member of the 2007 Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning side, has also been given a vote of confidence as he retains the number 3 jersey – starting ahead of former England international Robbie Morris who has recovered from a back injury.

Meanwhile, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has made three changes to the pack which started last weekend’s loss to Edinburgh at Ravenhill.

Grand Slam winner Tom Court replaces Bryan Young as loosehead prop, Dan Tuohy returns from injury in the second row, pushing Neil McComb down the bench, while Robbie Diack is back in the number 8 jersey.

Chris Henry, who has taken on the role of stand-in captain in recent weeks, was due to start the game on the bench but due to an injury sustained on Thursday, Stephen Ferris has pulled out of the squad as a precaution.

Henry will take Ferris’ place on the blindside of the scrum, with Thomas Anderson proving the back row cover on the bench.

In the backs, the only change is the return of Grand Slam winner Paddy Wallace, who comes in for Ian Whitten in midfield and will captain the side.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Troy Nathan, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Andrew Browne, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, Mike McComish

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Conor O’Loughlin, Liam Bibo, Aidan Wynne.

ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace (capt), Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Andy Kyriacou, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Ed O’Donoghue, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Andrew Trimble.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Seamus Flannery (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 11/8; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 4/7

Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “From the start of the season we have been aware this fixture was coming at this time of the season, and that if it goes to form, it will be between ourselves and Ulster for the third (Heineken Cup) qualification place in Irish rugby so we have to win matches like these.

“The momentum will come if we can get a result against Ulster, and that’s a big step for us.

“If we can turn Ulster over, then we are looking at a realistic chance of qualification for the Heineken Cup.

“Otherwise the gap will open between us and it will be more of a struggle.

“I can’t say it enough. Every person inside the gate is an advantage to us – they are the key ingredient.

“The noise and the crowd was fantastic last week, they really are brilliant and the lads responded.

“It is so important. If you only win a game by a hair’s breadth, everything counts so I’d ask that Connacht supporters that if they are not doing anything, please come out and support us.”

Paddy Wallace (Ulster) – “We know the task ahead of us in Galway. Connacht are a very competitive side, particularly at the start of the season, and they showed just how hard they can be to defeat at the Sportsground with that win over Cardiff Blues last weekend.

“They will have the bit between their teeth after that victory and they are motivated further by trying to get into the Heineken Cup for the first time.

“We stand in their way. Connacht look at us as their nearest targets in achieving that from all the provinces involved, so they will really be gunning for us on Friday night.

“We are well aware of that, well aware of their motivation and we know we need to put in another big performance to keep the winning run we have had against them.”


Friday, October 6, 2006 – Connacht 17 Ulster 24, The Sportsground
Tuesday, December 26, 2006 – Ulster 20 Connacht 10, Ravenhill
Friday, November 23, 2007 – Connacht 13 Ulster 30, The Sportsground
Friday, April 11, 2008 – Ulster 18 Connacht 6, Ravenhill
Friday, November 28, 2008 – Ulster 53 Connacht 13, Ravenhill
Friday, May 8, 2009 – Connacht 12 Ulster 14, The Sportsground


– Connacht’s long winless drought came to an end on Friday at the Sportsground with their 18-16 victory over Cardiff

– Now the westerners are in search of a second successive league victory for the first time since September 2006

– The only fellow province that Connacht did not beat in Galway last season was Ulster. Ulster have recorded just one win from their last four matches (20-16 at the Ospreys on September 12)

– The only fellow province that Ulster did not defeat on their own soil last season was Leinster (32-6 at the RDS in March)

– Connacht have lost their last six encounters with Ulster since a 22-12 victory at the Sportsground on New Year’s Eve 2005