Connacht Eagles tackle Newport in their final British & Irish Cup Pool 4 fixture at Dubarry Park on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 2pm).
The Welsh club pipped the developing Connacht squad 18-14 in Wales courtesy of a late try but the host province will be optimistic of avenging that narrow loss and, in the process, secure second place, at the Athlone venue.
Kick-off time is 2pm which will enable supporters to then watch the Heineken Cup action on the big screens at the Bounty afterwards. Admission to the game is free for Connacht Season Ticket holders.
A club with a long and chequered history, Newport, like neighbours and rivals Cross Keys, are now more or less a feeder club for regional side Newport Gwent Dragons.
Their form has been inconsistent and they currently lie mid-table in the Principality Premiership table. Formed in 1874, the ‘black and ambers’ have supplied numerous Welsh internationals over the years as well as over 30 British & Ireland Lions players.
Several Ireland internationals including one-time Buccaneer and Connacht stalwart Matt Mostyn have also played for the Welsh club, whose most recent Wales internationals include Toby Faletau, Luke Charteris and Ryan Jones.
On Saturday, however, they will – just like the Eagles – look to a primarily youthful squad captained by seasoned tighthead prop Gethin Robinson.
Connacht Eagles will need to be purposeful and belligerent to impose themselves on the visitors. At time of writing, the squad is not announced and Michael Kearney and Eoghan Grace could well be on Heineken Cup duty against Zebre at the Sportsground on Friday night.
Nevertheless, there is an exciting and improving blend in the squad. Regular supporters at Dubarry Park will be familiar with the exploits of David Heffernan, Jack Carty, Conor Finn, Mark McCrea and David Gannon, while recent Buccaneers debutant Mata Fifita could feature after his injury lay-off.
Galwegians duo Tadhg Leader and Brian Murphy have developed a fine partnership in the centre. If Grace is absent, Thomas Anderson will probably skipper the side with the exciting Corinthians player Aaron Conneely likely to complete the back row trio.
The vastly-experienced and very able hooker Adrian Flavin will be a key man for the home province.
The Eagles have flair and potential aplenty in this fledgling side. If they match that with work-rate, commitment and focus, they can account for Newport and take the runners-up berth behind runaway leaders Newcastle Falcons.
It is likely to be a lively, physical battle but if the Eagles dare to be the more expansive outfit and keep their discipline, then they can fly.
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