Injury-hit Connacht’s impressive home record will be tested by play-off chasing Edinburgh when the sides meet at the Sportsground. Michael Bradley’s men were edged out by Leinster in Dublin last weekend and will be keen to get back to winning ways ahead of next week’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bourgoin.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 2
CONNACHT (10th) v EDINBURGH (3rd), the Sportsground, 6pm
Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has finalised the westerners’ team and replacements for Friday’s Magners League clash with Edinburgh.
Full-back Gavin Duffy retains the captaincy for the Edinburgh game after regular skipper John Muldoon failed to recover from the groin injury that ruled him out of last weekend’s game against Leinster.
Prop Robbie Morris and centre Niva Ta’auso have also failed late fitness tests and so are unavailable for selection.
Bradley’s selected team shows five changes to the side that lose 17-14 to Leinster at the RDS.
Front rowers Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan, lock Michael Swift and backs Ian Keatley and Troy Nathan have all been promoted from the bench.
In the backs, Nathan replaces the injured Keith Matthews in the centre and Miah Nikora makes way for Keatley at out-half.
There are two changes in the front row as Cronin and Hagan replace Adrian Flavin and the injured Morris, while there are alterations to both the second row and back row.
New Zealander George Naoupu has been ruled out through injury, so Mike McComish moves to number 8, Mike McCarthy reverts to the blindside flanker role and Swift is a new inclusion in the second row.
Connacht will look to lively winger Fionn Carr to continue his good scoring form against Edinburgh. He is the joint top try scorer in the Magners League this season with seven tries, a tally matched by Edinburgh’s own Tim Visser.
Friday’s match could also see Ireland Under-20 international Eoin Griffin make his senior bow for Connacht as a replacement.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat has made four changes to his side for the Good Friday fixture.
In the pack, Moffat has reintroduced Allan Jacobsen, Jim Hamilton and David Callam – all Scotland internationals – while centre Ben Cairns has recovered from a hamstring injury and reclaims the number 13 jersey.
Andrew Kelly retains the number 2 jersey with Lions hooker Ross Ford named amongst the replacements.
Simon Cross (knee), Andrew Easson (knee), Allister Hogg (hip), Chris Paterson (kidney), Craig Hamilton (head), Ross Samson (arm) and Nick De Luca (groin) are all on the Scottish side’s injury list.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Brian Tuohy, Troy Nathan, Aidan Wynne, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Mike McComish.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Dave Nolan, Andrew Browne, Conor O’Loughlin, Miah Nikora, Eoin Griffin.
EDINBURGH: Jim Thompson; Mark Robertson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser; Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt); Allan Jacobsen, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Jim Hamilton, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, David Callam.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Kyle Traynor, Steve Turnbull, Scott Newlands, Greig Laidlaw, David Blair, Simon Webster.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Eanna O’Dowd (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 10/11; Draw: 16/1; Edinburgh to win: 10/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “We still believe that Ulster are a legitimate target for us (in terms of catching them in the table). We have to treat the two tournaments in their own right and give value to them.
“Edinburgh are going very well, they’re third in the league. They would believe that they’d have to win their remaining games to get a home semi-final.
“They have half the Scottish team, they’re be travelling here strong. In recent history, we haven’t gone well against them. It’s a massive challenge for us.
“The injuries don’t help obviously, but we just have to manage them like every other team. Our physio Keith Fox has been very busy. A lot of the players are 50-50 to play, so it’s important we get them right, especially with the European game coming up.
“We played well enough to win the game (against Leinster), we created enough chances but didn’t take them. And we got punished in the end.
“I thought the lads, in general, played very well. They got off to a very good start and didn’t let Leinster settle really for much of the game. They found themselves chasing, from two minutes in, which is a position they probably didn’t expect to be in.
“Obviously it was disappointing to not win it, or at least get a draw. But if we learn the lessons from it – even though they are harsh – we can go well against Edinburgh and then against Bourgoin next week.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “We will have to be totally switched on for this game because Connacht have a proud home record and that has been established over a good number of years.
“They have beaten Leinster and Munster there in Galway and over the last two games they defeated Dragons and almost beat Leinster in Dublin.
“We’re fortunate there is so much competition for a lot of positions in the team, especially for the loosehead spot between Kyle (Traynor) and Chunk (Allan Jacobsen).
“Chunk had a good Six Nations and we decided to give him a start for this one. Jim (Hamilton) was out with a back injury last week, but he has trained well this week, so he returns.
“The situation in the back row is that we are still carefully managing Ross Rennie, so he was not available for selection this week and we decided to give David Callam a start.
“It is a tough game for us and we need to keep moving forward. We know that we didn’t play particularly well last week (against the Scarlets) and that we must improve against Connacht.
“With four games left, we know that we control whether or not we will qualify for the play-offs. We are in a good position, but the really hard work starts now. Everybody knows that we must keep performing to a high standard and winning matches.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 107; Tries: Fionn Carr 7; Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 115; Tries: Tim Visser 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, January 26, 2007 – Edinburgh 49 Connacht 31, Murrayfield
Friday, October 26, 2007 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 14, the Sportsground
Friday, March 21, 2008 – Edinburgh 38 Connacht 8, Murrayfield
Friday, October 24, 2008 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 27, the Sportsground
Friday, March 27, 2009 – Edinburgh 32 Connacht 5, Murrayfield
Friday, September 11, 2009 – Edinburgh 62 Connacht 13, Murrayfield
– Connacht’s only victory in their last six games in the Magners League was a 16-3 triumph at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons on March 17
– Connacht are unbeaten in their last six matches at the Sportsgrounds in all competitions, since Ulster won there on September 25
– Edinburgh have won three of their last four Magners League matches, the loss being a 19-12 reversal to Munster on February 19. The Scottish club’s only victory on the road in any competititon since September was a 17-16 win at the Scarlets in the Magners League on December 4
– Connacht have not beaten Edinburgh since March 2005 with a 16-13 success at Murrayfield in the league
– Edinburgh have in fact lost only once in eight previous visits to Galway. The two sides also met on Good Friday, two seasons ago, with Edinburgh winning 38-8 at Murrayfield