Connacht will try to extend their unbeaten home record this season to nine games when they entertain eighth-placed Edinburgh at the Sportsground on Friday.
GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, January 9
CONNACHT (6th) v EDINBURGH (8th), the Sportsground, 7.35pm (live TG4/Galway Bay FM/deferred BBC ALBA)
Team News: Head coach Pat Lam has named his Connacht team to face Edinburgh at the Sportsground on Friday night. There is just one change to the side that defeated Munster 24-16 last week.
Miah Nikora has been selected at out-half, replacing Craig Ronaldson who remains sidelined with concussion.
The 29-year-old New Zealander, who came on in the second half against Munster, will form the half-back pairing with Ireland international and this season’s top try scorer, Kieran Marmion (pictured below), for the GUINNESS PRO12 round 13 tie.
Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw link up in the centre for the third time this season, while Mils Muliaina, Darragh Leader and Danie Poolman combine again in the back-three.
Up front, the pack remains unchanged with John Muldoon leading from the back row alongside Willie Faloon and Galway man Eoin McKeon who will make his 60th appearance for the province.
Ronan Loughney and Jack Carty, two more homegrown talents, are both named among the replacements for the visit of the Scottish side.
The Clan and Main Stand for Friday’s game are now sold out. Starting at €;20 for adults, remaining tickets are on sale from tickets.ie, the Connacht Rugby office at the Sportsground in Galway and Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.
Meanwhile, following last Friday’s victory over Glasgow Warriors, which secured Edinburgh the 1872 Cup and four league points, there are three changes to the team to take on Connacht.
Moving up from the bench, Willem Nel replaces John Andress at tighthead prop. Roddy Grant moves to blindside flanker with Hamish Watson, who returned from injury off the bench last Friday, coming into the starting line-up at openside in place of Mike Coman who is being rested.
Ross Ford will captain the side. There are no changes to the backs while coming on to the bench – and potentially making his first Edinburgh appearance – is Scottish-qualified out-half Jade Te Rure who is on trial with the club.
Head coach Alan Solomons said: “We have taken note of Connacht’s victory over Munster and their unbeaten home record and appreciate that we will have to be at our best to come away with the spoils.”
CONNACHT: Mils Muliaina; Darragh Leader, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Dave McSharry.
EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Matt Scott, Phil Burleigh, Tim Visser; Greig Tonks, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (capt), WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Roddy Grant, Hamish Watson, David Denton.
Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Tomas Leonardi, Sean Kennedy, Jade Te Rure, Andries Strauss.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andy Brace, Olly Hodges (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 3/10; Draw: 18/1; Edinburgh to win: 13/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “With the pleasing team performance last week against Munster, we are putting out the same matchday squad this week with the exception of Craig. But after showing his experience from the bench last week, Miah now comes in to start this important game for us.
“Edinburgh, under astute coach Alan Solomons, are a very powerful and direct team who have shown against top teams like Glasgow and Munster away from home what they are capable of. Like last week, we are expecting tough conditions as well as big, physical contact.
“While there was a lot of excitement around last week’s result, at the end of the day it was four points gained and we need another four points this week. Looking at it, we don’t believe it’s a case of ‘backing up’ the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week.”
Tim Visser (Edinburgh) – “Connacht are not the team they used to be anymore so there are no easy games anymore in this league. It’s going to be a tough game but we can take this momentum forward to that.
“I think the Edinburgh-Glasgow game is obviously a derby that has been hugely emotional over the years, one that I’ve never been able to win. In my six years here, last week (20-8) was the first time I’ve been able to win, so it was memorable.
“You could see the emotion at the end, with everyone coming onto the pitch. It was more special considering we lost the first game (16-6 at Glasgow).”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Connacht – Points: Jack Carty 32; Tries: Kieran Marmion 3; Edinburgh – Points: Tom Heathcote 79; Tries: Tim Visser 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, February 24, 2012 – Connacht 26 Edinburgh 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Connacht 23 Edinburgh 24, the Sportsground
Friday, April 12, 2013 – Edinburgh 24 Connacht 32, Murrayfield
Friday, November 29, 2013 – Edinburgh 43 Connacht 10, Murrayfield
Saturday, February 15, 2014 – Connacht 11 Edinburgh 7, the Sportsground
Friday, September 12, 2014 – Edinburgh 13 Connacht 14, BT Murrayfield
– Connacht’s two-match losing run in the GUINNESS PRO12 ended with their momentous victory over Munster on New Year’s Day
– Connacht have won their last five games in all competitions at the Sportsground and are unbeaten there in all eight games this season
– Edinburgh’s only defeat in their last five fixtures in all competitions came at Glasgow Warriors in the first leg of the 1872 Cup clash
– Edinburgh’s only victory on the road in their last nine away league games came when they visited Munster in the opening round this season. It was their first win over an Irish province since December 2013
– Connacht have won three of their last four encounters with Edinburgh and following their 14-13 victory at BT Murrayfield in round 2, they are seeking a first ever league double over the Scotsmen
– Edinburgh’s only triumph in Galway in their last five visits since 2008 was a 24-23 win in December 2012