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European Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v Bayonne

European Challenge Cup Preview: Connacht v Bayonne

Connacht meet Bayonne for the first time since the 2010/11 season when they claimed a memorable double over the French side. That will be the target for Pat Lam’s men in the coming days, beginning with Saturday’s round 3 game in Galway.


CONNACHT (2nd) v BAYONNE (4th), the Sportsground, 5pm (live Galway Bay FM/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Pat Lam has named his team for Connacht’s European Challenge Cup round 3 clash with Bayonne at the Sportsground on Saturday.

The Connacht head coach has made just one change to the side that defeated the Scarlets 14-8 in the GUINNESS PRO12 last weekend.

Lock Mick Kearney comes in to boost the pack in place of the injured Andrew Browne, while Michael Swift, capped 266 times for the province, has been included among the replacements.

Jack Carty is named at out-half for his tenth start of the season and is partnered by Ireland international Kieran Marmion.

Mils Muliaina and Bundee Aki will run out at the Sportsground for the third time in as many weeks following back-to-back PRO12 wins in Galway.

20-year-old Academy scrum half Caolin Blade named on the bench in the absence of the injured Ian Porter and Leinster-tied John Cooney – is in line to make his third senior appearance.

Meanwhile, the Bayonne team chosen to play Connacht shows seven personnel changes to the side that lost 25-13 at La Rochelle in the last Challenge Cup round.

There are also a number of personnel switches with Jon Elissalde moving to the left wing and Fijian Saimoni Vaka linking up in the centre with teenager Lalakai Foketi, the Australian Under-20 international who won two Super Rugby caps with the Rebels.

The three new inclusions in the back-line are Argentinean full-back Martin Bustos Moyano, who kicked a late levelling penalty in last weekend’s league encounter with La Rochelle, and youngsters Matthieu Ugalde (22) and Bastien Duhalde (21) get the nod at out-half and scrum half respectively.

Hooker Simon Labouyrie joins Lucas Pointud and George Jgenti in the front row, while South African Dewald Senekal will captain the visitors with Mark Chisolm and Jean Monribot both benched. Senekal and Lisiate Fa’aoso from Tonga are paired together in the second row.

Thibault Visensang switches to number 8 in place of Monribot with Clement Ancely selected at openside flanker. Bayonne are currently 10th in the Top 14 Championship, just two points above the relegation zone.

“We showed some good things recently, but we are still missing something in the finer details. I think that we lack patience at times when we get to the opposition 22 and it is something we are working hard to improve and start taking our chances,” said Bustos Moyano.

CONNACHT: Mils Muliaina; Danie Poolman, Bundee Aki, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Mick Kearney, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon (capt), Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Michael Swift, Willie Faloon, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

BAYONNE: Martin Bustos Moyano; Pierre Sayerse, Lalakai Foketi, Saimoni Vaka, Jon Elissalde; Matthieu Ugalde, Bastien Duhalde; Lucas Pointud, Simon Labouyrie, George Jgenti, Dewald Senekal (capt), Lisiate Fa’aoso, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Clement Ancely, Thibault Visensang.

Replacements: David Roumieu, Florian Lapeyrade, Paul Bruno, Mark Chisholm, Christophe Loustalot, Guillaume Rouet, Clement Otazo, Jean Monribot.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Ross Campbell (both England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/100; Draw: 75/1; Bayonne to win: 16/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “Protecting our home ground is one of our main priorities and that drive continues this week. We have chosen a strong side to face Bayonne on Saturday in what is our last home game of the (calendar) year.

“We’ve stated top six in the PRO12 as a big goal but we also have other aspirations to reach the knockout stages in the Challenge Cup. This will require input from the entire squad over the next fortnight. We know we will have to rely on everyone going into a difficult period of games over the Christmas period.

“Bayonne are a good side who have taken some big scalps in the Top 14 this season, namely Toulouse and Clermont. There are no easy wins in this pool and we are expecting a bruising battle on Saturday against a physically massive team.

“They are a typical French side and we expect them to be very direct so we will need to put them under pressure from the outset and cut them down.

“Again, I have to praise the home support over the last number of weeks. They have been phenomenal and it gives us all such a big lift. We want to make sure we protect our ground again this week in the last home game until the New Year.”

Current Form – Connacht – (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 16-11 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 14-13 away to Edinburgh; Won 10-9 at home to Connacht; Lost 39-21 away to Glasgow Warriors; Drew 24-24 at home to Cardiff Blues; Won 9-6 at home to Benetton Treviso; (European Challenge Cup): Won 48-12 at home to La Rochelle; Lost 33-13 away to Exeter Chiefs; (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 26-11 away to the Ospreys; Won 43-3 at home to Zebre; Won 14-8 at home to the Scarlets

Bayonne – (Top 14 Championship): Won 29-15 at home to Toulon; Won 38-12 at home to Oyonnax; Lost 30-6 away to Castres Olympique; Lost 34-29 away to Stade Francais; Won 23-6 at home to Brive; Lost 24-15 away to Grenoble; Won 35-19 at home to Toulouse; Won 15-10 at home to Montpellier; Lost 24-19 away to Lyon; (European Challenge Cup): Won 30-24 at home to Exeter Chiefs; Lost 25-13 away to La Rochelle; (Top 14 Championship): Won 24-13 at home to Clermont Auvergne; Lost 27-10 away to Racing Metro 92; Drew 19-19 away to La Rochelle

Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Challenge Cup: Connacht – Points: Craig Ronaldson 19; Tries: Robbie Henshaw 2; Bayonne – Points: Christophe Loustalot 17; Tries: Pierre Sayerse 2

Previous European Meetings: 2

Saturday, January 15, 2011 – Pool 1 – Bayonne 21 Connacht 35, Stade Jean Dauger
Friday, October 15, 2010 – Pool 1 – Connacht 16 Bayonne 13, the Sportsground

Match Facts –

– Connacht have won both meetings between these two sides in the European Challenge Cup

– Connacht have won eight of their last nine against French teams in the competition, while Bayonne have lost three of their last four games against all opposition in this tournament

– Bayonne’s Pierre Sayerse has made five clean breaks in the opening two rounds of the competition. No player has made more in the Challenge Cup this season

– Connacht have the best discipline in the Challenge Cup this season in terms of penalties conceded as they have given away just seven penalties per game on average so far in the competition

Challenge Cup Records:

Connacht –
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
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

Bayonne –
2013/14: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals