Connacht sit bottom of the Magners League table and are in real need of a boost, with the start of their European Challenge Cup campaign fast approaching. Coach Michael Bradley has selected a much-changed side to face the Dragons. Fit-again centre Niva Ta’auso is a welcome inclusion.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 3
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (6th) v CONNACHT (10th), Rodney Parade, 4.30pm (live S4C)
Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made a number of changes for his side’s Magners League meeting with the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
In the backs, Liam Bibo, Niva Ta’auso, Miah Nikora and Conor O’Loughlin come into the side.
Flanker Ray Ofisa is ruled out through illness and up front Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Johnny O’Connor and Mike McCarthy have earned recalls.
In a late change to the replacements bench, hooker Adrian Flavin has been ruled out with an eye injury and his place has been taken by youngster Dermot Murphy.
Meanwhile, Welsh international lock Luke Charteris returns to captain the Dragons in their home match against Connacht. Charteris had been withdrawn from recent action as a precaution following an eye injury.
All Black scrum half Danny Lee, who makes his first start, is joined by centre Rhodri Gomer Davies who returns from foot surgery for his first Dragons league game of the season.
Back rower Hoani MacDonald has also come back from a shoulder injury to take up a position on the bench.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Aled Brew, Tom Riley, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Danny Lee; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones, Gethin Robinson, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris (capt), Dan Lydiate, James Harris, Joe Bearman.
Replacements: Duane Goodfield, Nigel Hall, Hoani MacDonald, Lewis Evans, Will Harries, Shaun Connor, Wayne Evans.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Liam Bibo, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Troy Nathan; Miah Nikora, Conor O’Loughlin; Ronan Loughney, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Brett Wilkinson, Andrew Browne, Mike McComish, Frank Murphy, Ian Keatley, Aidan Wynne.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Phil Fear, Neil Howells (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Connacht to win: 9/2
Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “We know it will be a tough test against the Dragons but we are anxious to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Ulster.
“The Dragons, like ourselves, are a difficult side at home normally. This year they have a strong resolve. They have started well, are strong and have plenty of confidence.
“They will be under pressure to get a win over us, and we will go there looking to get something – if not to make up for last weekend. It’s a match we can win and we will go there with that atttitude.”
Tom Willis (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “It’s very important that we play well against Connacht to continue developing our confidence and endeavour with the Heineken Cup coming up next week.
“Having said that, we need to keep our eye on the prize today and that’s to take care of Connacht.
“We know that this will be a performance-led match and if we play to our potential, the result should take care of itself but they are going to be tough opposition. We got tailed-up against them last season so we know they can be a big threat.
“It’s great to have Luke (Charteris) and Hoani (MacDonald) back in the squad. These are key players who really make a difference when they are playing, so it’s a boost to have them back in the side.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: James Arlidge 27; Tries: Aled Brew, Ashley Smith 2 each; Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 32; Tries: Fionn Carr 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, April 3, 2009 – Connacht 39 Newport Gwent Dragons 17, The Sportsground
Sunday, April 26, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 27 Connacht 14, Rodney Parade
– The Newport Gwent Dragons will be glad to return to Rodney Parade as they have won their last four matches at the famous old venue
– In fact, the Dragons’ last ten matches in the Magners League have all been won by the home side on the day
– The Welshmen have won five of their last six matches against Irish teams at Rodney Parade
– Connacht return to the ground where they secured their only away win in the Magners League since September 2006, when they were 13-11 victors in the 2007/08 encounter
– Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season. Connacht have a won 3 and lost 5 record on all visits to Rodney Parade in all competitions