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Amlin Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v I Cavalieri Estra

Amlin Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v I Cavalieri Estra

Connacht made history last Saturday by becoming the first province to beat a French team home and away three years running, adding Bayonne to their previous scalps of Dax and Montpellier. I Cavalieri Estra’s visit gives them a chance to complete their European campaign on a high.

AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 1: Saturday, January 22

CONNACHT (3rd) v I CAVALIERI ESTRA (4th), the Sportsground, 6pm

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Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has finalised his team and replacements for Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 1 encounter with I Cavalieri Estra at the Sportsground.

The province’s matchday squad remains largely unchanged from the one that was on duty for last weekend’s excellent 35-21 win in Bayonne last weekend.

Bernie Upton makes way for Michael Swift in the second row, and Johnny O’Connor is replaced by Shane Conneely who will be making his first competitive start for Connacht.

The 20-year-old flanker from Galway, who is in the second year with the Connacht Academy, came on for the injured O’Connor last Saturday and made an immediate impact.

Full-back Gavin Duffy has recovered from the knee injury that has ruled him out for the last month, allowing Fionn Carr to return to the wing.

Keith Matthews returns to captain the side from inside centre and Eoin Griffin has been rested, making way for Niva Ta’auso at outside centre.

Ray Ofisa is back available after time out with a facial injury. The hard-hitting Samoan flanker, who has played 80 times for Connacht, will hope to have an impact off the replacements bench.

Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan make up the front row, the trio were called up to the Ireland senior and Wolfhounds squads announced this week.

Meanwhile, Mike McCarthy’s inclusion in Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations squad comes on the back of an impressive campaign so far for Connacht.

The 29-year-old lineout specialist can play in the second row and back row and it is this versatility, along with his excellent ball-carrying abilities, that have made him a regular in the Connacht squad, earning his 100th provincial cap last weekend.

I Cavalieri Estra suffered a 48-16 defeat at home to Harlequins in the last round, and coach Andrea De Rossi had made four changes in personnel for this trip to Galway.

They will field new half-backs in Alberto Chiesa and Stefano Canale, with Billy Ngwaini moving from out-half to full-back.

Sebastien Rodwell has been brought in at inside centre, a move which also sees Winston Mafi revert to the right wing.

The only change in the forwards sees promising 20-year-old Filippo Cazzola start in the second row, taking over from top try scorer Wouter Moore.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews (capt), Brian Tuohy; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Mike McCarthy, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Shane Conneely, Mike McComish.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Bernie Upton, Ray Ofisa, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Shane Monahan.

I CAVALIERI ESTRA: Billy Ngwaini; Winston Mafi, Clemens Von Grumbkov, Sebastian Rodwell, Niccolò Tempestini; Alberto Chiesa, Stefano Canale; Leandro Poloni, Lorenzo Giovanchelli (capt), Gabriel Bocca, Luca Beccaris, Filippo Cazzola, Luca Petillo, Filippo Cristiano, Noa Soqueta.

Replacements: Alessio Neri, Anthony Goti, Davide Stefani, Nicola Belardo, Lisandro Villagra, Martin Murgier, Rima Wakarua, Gerlando Marino.

Referee: Laurent Cardona (France)
Assistant Referees: Eric Gauzins, Arnaud Blondel (both France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/100; Draw: 80/1; I Cavalieri Estra to win: 17/1

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Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We got that elusive victory we have been looking for in recent weeks now, and hopefully we can push on now and back it up on Saturday.

“We owe Prato a result after the defeat down there. We then have a week off for a break and we’re back in training then for the next game which comes in February agains the Scarlets.

“Our primary focus now is to win on Saturday and bring this confidence boost into next month.”

Current Form – Connacht – (Magners League): Won 40-17 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 35-33 away to the Scarlets; Won 19-17 away to Glasgow Warriors; Drew 15-15 at home to Ulster; Lost 22-6 away to the Cardiff Blues; (Amlin Challenge Cup): Lost 23-21 away to I Cavalieri Estra; Won 16-13 at home to Bayonne; (Magners League): Lost 18-6 at home to Leinster; Lost 24-17 away to Benetton Treviso; Lost 16-15 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 24-19 away to Edinburgh; (Amlin Challenge Cup): Lost 20-9 away to Harlequins; Lost 15-9 at home to Harlequins; (Magners League): Lost 16-12 at home to Munster; Lost 30-8 away to Leinster; Lost 17-16 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; (Amlin Challenge Cup): Won 35-21 away to Bayonne

I Cavalieri Estra – (Super 10): Won 20-10 away to Casino di Venezia; Won 22-9 at home to Mantovani Lazio 1927; Lost 20-10 away to Femi-CZ Rovigo Delta; Won 47-10 at home to Marchiol Mogliano; (Amlin Challenge Cup): Won 23-21 at home to Connacht; Lost 55-17 away to Harlequins; (Super 10): Won 35-22 at home to HBS GranDucato Parma; Won 25-13 away to Petrarca Padova; Won 23-17 at home to Futura Park Rugby Roma; Lost 25-18 away to Banca Monte Parma Crociati; (Heineken Cup): Lost 65-7 away to Bayonne; Lost 31-7 away to Bayonne; (Super 10): Won 32-17 at home to L’Aquila Rugby 1936; (Amlin Challenge Cup): Lost 48-16 at home to Harlequins

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Amlin Challenge Cup: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 45; Tries: Ian Keatley, Bernie Upton, Gavin Duffy, Sean Cronin, Brian Tuohy, Fionn Carr 1 each; I Cavalieri Estra – Points: Rima Wakarua 40; Tries: Wouter Moore 2

Previous European Meetings: 1

Saturday, October 9, 2010 – Pool 1 – I Cavalieri Estra 23 Connacht 21, Stadio Lungobisenzio

Amlin Challenge Cup Records:

Connacht –
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool 3

I Cavalieri Estra –
2010/11 is their first season in Europe