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Magners Preview: Connacht v Scarlets

Magners Preview: Connacht v Scarlets

Connacht need to put memories of last weekend’s pointless trip to Glasgow behind them as they entertain fellow strugglers the Scarlets in their final match before the international break. Michael Bradley’s men should have beaten the Scarlets at the Sportsground last season and know that this is a real ‘must win’ game.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, October 30

CONNACHT (10th) v SCARLETS (8th), The Sportsground, 6.30pm

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Team News: The Connacht team to play Scarlets in the Magners League at the Sportsground on Friday has been selected. It shows two changes to the side which started against Glasgow Warriors last weekend.

Former England front rower Robbie Morris has been selected at tighthead prop, with Jamie Hagan dropping to the replacements bench.

Experienced lock Michael Swift, the longest serving player in the current squad, is also included among the replacements as Mike McComish comes into the back row, with Mike McCarthy switching to the second row.

Meanwhile, Wales full-back Morgan Stoddart will make his long-awaited return for the Scarlets in Galway, after a seven-month absence following a knee injury.

Stoddart features in a back-line that includes Rhys Priestland, who kicked the region to victory against the Dragons last week, and Tavis Knoyle, who makes his first league start.

With six of the Scarlets’ frontline players now on international duty, some new faces appear for this Magners League fixture against Connacht, including 27-year-old lock Damian Welch.

With Dafydd Jones getting a Wales call-up, World Cup Sevens star Richie Pugh earns a place in the starting line-up.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Mike McCarthy, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, Mike McComish.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Conor O’Loughlin, Miah Nikora, Liam Bibo.

SCARLETS: Daniel Evans; Morgan Stoddart, Sean Lamont, Rob Higgitt, Lee Williams; Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Damian Welch, Simon Easterby, Richie Pugh, David Lyons (capt).

Replacements: Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull, Gareth Davies, Dan Newton, Gareth Maule.

Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Alan Rogan, John Carvill (both Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 5/4; Draw: 18/1; Scarlets to win: 8/13

Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “The Scarlets have showed some good form in the Heineken Cup, with two wins from two – in particular the win over London Irish.

“They had a good, solid performance at home against the Dragons last week, which gives them three wins out of three coming into our match. So they’ll be coming over with a lot of confidence.

“From our point of view, we did well in the Challenge Cup but we had a poor first half against Glasgow (last week).

“We managed to get back into the game, only to concede a late try and get nothing out of the match.

“Friday’s game is a big one for us, it finishes off this end of the calendar – in terms of the Magners League and European matches – so it’s important that we get a home win.”

Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “We know the Sportsground is a difficult place to go to, the weather is consistently bad whenever we’ve played there and they play the conditions and their ground very well.

“The first thing we have to do is physically front up to them and if we do that then we have a chance.

“We have played up there on a number of occasions, we know what to expect and we are intent on getting a result.

“We will have to play clever rugby at times, because the pressure they put on you, you don’t always get to play the game you want.

“We’ve three wins on the bounce but we haven’t achieved anything yet.

“There has been a certain degree of confidence and belief building within this group for some time now – the processes that we have put in place are starting to come through for us.”

Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 47; Tries: Fionn Carr 4; Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 39; Tries: Jonathan Davies 3


Friday, September 15, 2006 – Connacht 15 Scarlets 37, The Sportsground
Friday, May 11, 2007 – Scarlets 19 Connacht 10, Stradey Park
Friday, September 28, 2007 – Scarlets 34 Connacht 11, Stradey Park
Friday, January 4, 2008 – Connacht 20 Scarlets 18, The Sportsground
Saturday, September 13, 2008 – Scarlets 45 Connacht 3, Stradey Park
Friday, January 9, 2009 – Connacht 14 Scarlets 17, The Sportsground


– Connacht have slipped to three straight defeats in the Magners League but they have already beaten a Welsh side at the Sportsground this season – 18-16 over the Cardiff Blues on September 18

– The Scarlets have won their last three encounters in all competitions but have lost their last two matches against teams from Ireland

– The Scarlets’ only victory on their last five visits to Ireland was a 17-14 triumph in this equivalent fixture last season

– Connacht have won just one of their last six matches against the Scarlets (a 20-18 win at the Sportsground on January 4, 2008)