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Connacht Name Squad For Bayonne Tie

Connacht Name Squad For Bayonne Tie

Connacht coach Eric Elwood has announced an extended squad for Friday night’s crucial Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 1 clash with Bayonne at the Sportsground (kick-off 7pm).

The 25-man panel sees the inclusion of extra cover in the front row and back-line as players await the results of late fitness tests.

Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Gavin Duffy and in-form prop Jamie Hagan return to the squad, while recent signings Darragh Fanning and Barry Fa’amausili retain their places after making their European debuts last weekend.

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The return of both Ray Ofisa and Keith Matthews will help bolster the side as Connacht look to bounce back from a disappointing 23-21 defeat to I Cavalieri Estra last Saturday.

Connacht’s opponents this Friday, French side Bayonne, top Pool 1 after a 16-12 home win over Harlequins.

This will be Bayonne’s first competitive encounter with an Irish side, and full-back and captain Pépito Elhorga expressed their eagerness to make it back-to-back victories in Europe.

“I have to say we were quite surprised to see that Connacht lost to the newcomers Cavalieri – maybe they went through a bad phase,” he said.

“Personally speaking, I have never played against the Irish province but they are always there, like the stalwarts of this tournament.

“Connacht did really well last season, qualifying for the semi-finals before losing to Toulon in an extremely tight game. And with five Irish internationals in their squad, they don’t lack talent and they are very physical by tradition.

“However, we will prepare with the intention to win at Connacht and keep our momentum going because if we want to get a quarter-final we have got to get results from everywhere.

“We will try to come away from Ireland if not with a win then at least with a bonus point, but most of all we want to have a big game.”

The former France player added: “Our strength at the moment is that we don’t let go, we are committed 100% from the kick-off right to the final whistle. And that is a quality that both English and Irish squads master as well.

“They rarely let their guard down and they put you under constant pressure. Up front I think we’re good at gaining territory, so if we can get on the front foot in that area that’ll help our backs make the difference.

“I think Connacht have the same assets – they are very solid up front and fast in the three-quarters.”

CONNACHT Squad (v Bayonne) – Backs (11): Cillian Willis, Darragh Fanning, Fionn Carr, Frank Murphy, Gavin Duffy, Ian Keatley, Keith Matthews, Miah Nikora, Niva Ta’auso, Shane Monahan, Troy Nathan.

Forwards (14): Adrian Flavin, Andrew Browne, Barry Fa’amausili, Bernie Upton, Brett Wilkinson, Dermot Murphy, Jamie Hagan, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Ray Ofisa, Ronan Loughney, Sean Cronin.