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Magners Preview: Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons

Connacht will be hoping to build on the good work of last season when they kickstart new coach Eric Elwood’s reign by welcoming the Newport Gwent Dragons to the Sportsground on Saturday evening.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 4

CONNACHT v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS, the Sportsground, 5.30pm (live TG4)

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Team News: New Connacht coach Eric Elwood has named his team for Saturday evening’s Magners League encounter with the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Scrum half Frank Murphy will skipper the side, with Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Gavin Duffy making their returns at hooker and full-back respectively, following the summer tour Down Under.

Recent signing Ezra Taylor is included at number 8, while two more newcomers, Cillian Willis and Rob Sweeney, will look to make a big impact from the replacements bench.

Murphy, Cronin, Willis and Keith Matthews have all been passed fit after overcoming knocks, but regular captain John Muldoon (broken arm) and back injury victims Johnny O’Connor and Robbie Morris are notable absentees.

Connacht’s most-capped player, Michael Swift, starts in the second row alongside Bernie Upton. This is Swift’s eleventh season with the westerners. The 32-year-old scored one of the tries of the season against Leinster last April.

Meanwhile, Newport Gwent Dragons boss Paul Turner has named his side to face Connacht in their first Magners League game.

Team captain Tom Willis has dropped out of the matchday squad, while Jason Tovey has moved back to his familiar full-back bearth to accommodate Matthew Jones at out-half.

Wales international Luke Charteris, captains the side in the absence of Willis, and experienced Kiwi Danny Lee starts at scrum half.

Elsewhere in the Dragons side, Rhodri Gomer-Davies returns, having recovered from a knock sustained in the London Irish friendly, and Robin Sowden-Taylor gets the nod over fellow international Gavin Thomas.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy (capt); Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, Michael McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, Ezra Taylor.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Rob Sweeney, Dave Nolan, Mike McComish, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Tiernan O’Halloran.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Jason Tovey; Will Harries, Rhodri Gomer-Davies, Tom Riley, Aled Brew; Matthew Jones, Danny Lee; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones, Ben Castle, Luke Charteris (capt), Scott Morgan, Joe Bearman, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Hugo Ellis.

Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Pat Palmer, Ali Mckenzie, Rob Sidoli, Danny Lydiate, Gavin Thomas, Nicky Griffiths, David Bishop.

Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Alan Rogan, Olly Hodges (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/9; Draw: 20/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 17/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We will go into it with confidence but it is the opening game so neither team has a run of form going into it.

“It’s a huge week and I’m feeling a bit of pressure, but it’s one of anticipation and everything is geared towards Saturday.

“It’s very important we start with a win at home, especially as the next two games are away to the Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors.

“We are missing our talisman, our captain, a very influential player who had stood up to the mark, and got his recognition with his selection for Ireland.

“But we have been talking about developing leaders in the squad, so we are hoping some of the other guys take that mantle on Saturday. We are going to have injuries throughout the season, and we expect people to step up – now is the opportunity.

“We have done a lot of work on unstructured play. We want to move the ball around, we want to play attacking open rugby and create opportunities in attack where both forwards and backs are comfortable with the ball in hand.

“Conversely we have been working on our defence because the game is all about attack in defence and the transition from one to to the other.

“We have got to be ruthless in defence, not leak soft tries, and if people are going to score against us, then they must earn it.”

Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “We have got a few players returning, some having had limited match-time over the last fortnight and some who have not. It is a bit of a risk but I am certain that we will get better week-by-week.

“It has been a tough summer for us with so many injuries but the attitude within the squad has been first class.

“We’re looking forward to a tough challenge at the Sportsground. It’s not been a happy hunting ground for us in the past but the attitude all week has been very good and we’re looking forward to a sunny day in Galway!

“I was pleased with the fact that we didn’t pick up any more injuries in the Martyn Williams Testimonial. It also gave the boys a chance to come to terms with the new law interpretations, which are new to all sides this season.

“A plus point was our scramble defence effort but we were far too undisciplined to get in front of the Cardiff Blues. They showed again that they have a top class squad available and it will be an interesting battle with them in three weeks’ time.

“But we want to start the season off with a victory in Galway on Saturday evening. This season is going to be a marathon with the added fixtures but I can assure you that the Dragons are going to get better and better as the season progresses.

“Like any other side we need our fair share of luck to keep our squad fit, but we are looking to move on from some of the rugby we played last year.”

Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 138; Tries: Fionn Carr 7; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 87; Tries: Aled Brew, Will Harries 6 each


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
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – Connacht 16 Newport Gwent Dragons 3, the Sportsground


– Connacht have tripped up in round one of the Magners League for the past two seasons, but have suffered just one reversal at the Sportsground in their last six Magners League matches

– Connacht have won four of their last five home games against Welsh regions

– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won their opening match in a Magners League season in four of the past five years. The Dragons’ only away victory since November was a 23-22 win at Saracens in the LV= Cup on February 7

– The men of Gwent’s single win in Ireland in their last 24 visits was a 16-14 success at Ulster on September 19, 2008

– Connacht and the Dragons have met once before in round one, in 2007 at the Sportsground where Connacht won 22-7

– The last four encounters between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, while the Dragons’ only previous victory in Galway was a 32-14 win on May 1, 2004