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Magners Preview: Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons

The Newport Gwent Dragons are unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions, but Connacht have not lost at the Sportsground since September and they have beaten the Dragons on the last two occasions the sides met in Galway – 22-7 in September 2007 and 39-17 in April 2009.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Wednesday, March 17

CONNACHT (10th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (6th), the Sportsground, 6.30pm

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Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made five changes to the province’s team for their St. Patrick’s Day Magners League clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Winger Liam Bibo, centre Niva Ta’auso and scrum half Conor O’Loughlin come into the Connacht back-line.

Adrian Flavin takes over at hooker from Sean Cronin, who is on international duty for Ireland’s final RBS 6 Nations game against Scotland, while Ray Ofisa also returns in the back row.

Tickets which were purchased for this game, which was called off on January 8 because of frost and snow, will be valid for the game on St. Patrick’s Day.

Meanwhile, injuries have hampered the Newport Gwent Dragons’ preparations for their latest trip to Ireland.

Lock Adam Jones (hand), hooker Duane Goodfield (knee) and back rowers Lewis Evans (thumb) and James Harris (knee) are all out injured, while current Wales squad members Luke Charteris and Danny Lydiate are away on international duty.

Head coach Paul Turner has brought in Welsh Under-20 international Toby Faletau and Newport captain Andrew Coombs, who is set to make his debut for the region off the bench.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Liam Bibo, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Conor O’Loughlin; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Ronan Loughney, Robbie Morris, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Kieran Campbell, Miah Nikora, Aidan Wynne.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Will Harries, Matthew Watkins, Ashley Smith, Aled Brew; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis (capt), Ben Castle, Rob Sidoli, Hoani Macdonald, Toby Faletau, Gavin Thomas, Grant Webb.

Replacements: Steve Jones, Pat Palmer, Andrew Coombs, Adam Brown, Tom Riley, James Arlidge, James Leadbeater.

Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Olly Hodges (both Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 10/11; Draw: 18/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 10/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “The Dragons had an excellent performance against Munster. I think it’s probably the best result they’ve had in a couple of years in the Magners League.

“It sets them up nicely in terms of an opportunity to secure one of the Welsh positions in the Heineken Cup, and they’ll be coming here with an awful lot of confidence.

“Having said that, this fixture has gone to the home side predominantly in the last three or four years.

“Obviously, with our performance against the Ospreys three weeks ago and the most recent one against Glasgow being disappointing in terms of not getting a win, this has become a huge game for us and we’ll be treating it like so.”

Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “Although these injuries are always frustrating, both for the players and coaching staff, we have players keen to step up for these games.

“As we have seen already this season in players such as Tom Riley and Will Harries, all of our squad members are ready to make the most of the opportunities they are given.

“I have no doubt that Andrew Coombs and Toby Faletau in particular will seize this chance with both hands.”

Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 96; Tries: Fionn Carr 4; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: James Arlidge 62; Tries: Aled Brew 5


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
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 23 Connacht 10, Rodney Parade


– Connacht have lost just one of their last four games in all competitions, a 19-17 reversal at the Ospreys in the Magners League on February 21

– Connacht’s most recent defeat at the Sportsground was a 30-6 loss to Ulster on September 25

– The Newport Gwent Dragons are undefeated in their last four games in all competitions since their 32-23 reversal at home to Gloucester in the Heineken Cup on January 24

– The Dragons have not lost to a team from Ireland since their visit to Munster in the Magners League on September 27