Connacht coach Eric Elwood has finalised his starting line-up for Thursday’s Magners League encounter with the Cardiff Blues at Cardiff City Stadium (kick-off 7.05pm).
The selected Connacht team sees Adrian Flavin replacing Sean Cronin, as the Ireland hooker is rested as part of the IRFU’s player management programme. Academy graduate Dermot Murphy has been added to the replacements bench.
Galway man Andrew Browne replaces Bernie Upton in the second row, and experienced flanker Johnny O’Connor returns from a back injury to replace Shane Conneely on the bench.
Gavin Duffy, who has been nursing a back injury, is fit to start at full-back, while centre Keith Matthews (dead leg) and winger Troy Nathan (back) have overcome their respective knocks.
Connacht have to cope with a five-day turnaround this week, following on from a bruising draw with Ulster. They have also been forced to stay in Swansea, as there is no accomodation available in Cardiff due to the Ryder Cup.
Coach Eric Elwood said that the province did not pursue a possible switch of home and away matches with Cardiff, as such a scenario would leave them finishing the season with three successive road trips.
“We play Cardiff in our final home match in April before heading to Ulster and Munster, so a reversal could have seen us finish with three away games,” he explained.
“It’s far from ideal but we will just deal with it this week. We had a players’ meeting and it was pointed out that we took on Munster last year and then played and beat Leinster three days later.
“These things can be used to your advantage,” added the former Ireland out-half.
CONNACHT (v Cardiff Blues): Gavin Duffy; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy (capt); Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Michael McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, Mike McComish.
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Rob Sweeney, Bernie Upton, Johnny O’Connor, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Darragh Fanning.