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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Scarlets

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Scarlets

Something has got to give at the Sportsground tonight as Connacht try to maintain their unbeaten home record this season, while the Scarlets chase their sixth successive victory over the westerners since September 2011.

GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, November 29

CONNACHT (6th) v SCARLETS (7th), the Sportsground, 7.30pm (live TG4/Sky Sports 2 HD/Galway Bay FM)

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Team News: Bolstered by the return of Ireland internationals Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named a strong squad for their GUINNESS PRO12 clash with the Scarlets.

Robbie Henshaw is a late withdrawal having failed to fully recover from a minor hip flexor injury picked up in last week’s Ireland v Australia Test.

Having played in every game this season, Jack Carty, a try scorer against Zebre in round 8, has been handed the reins at out-half.

Along with Rodney Ah You coming in, there are three more changes to the pack. Hooker Tom McCartney, who earned his first Connacht cap from the bench against the Italians, has been handed his first start in the absence of the injured Jason Harris-Wright.

The Galway-born duo of Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon have also been promoted from the bench for the Saturday night showdown at the Sportsground.

Meanwhile, an unbeaten home record in 2014, something not achieved by the region since 2006 at Stradey Park, will give the Scarlets confidence going into this meeting of the sixth and seventh-placed sides in the league.

Front row pairing Peter Edwards and Kirby Myhill will both reach the milestone of 50 appearances for Llanelli outfit.

The Scarlets are without nine players still on international duty but head coach Wayne Pivac is pleased with the way his squad has performed in recent weeks. Either side of two LV= Cup losses to Northampton Saints and Cardiff Blues, Pivac’s charges have beaten Zebre (28-13) and Glasgow Warriors (19-9) in the PRO12.

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

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Michael Kearney, Willie Faloon, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

SCARLETS: Steffan Evans; Harry Robinson, Michael Tagicakibau, Regan King, Kristian Phillips; Steven Shingler, Aled Davies; Phil John, Kirby Myhill, Peter Edwards, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay (capt).

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Jacobie Adriaanse, Lewis Rawlins, Rory Pitman, Kieran Hardy, Josh Lewis, Gareth Owen.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Scarlets to win: 2/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “It’s great to bring back the experience of Kieran and Rodney for what is undoubtedly a big game for us. It’s unfortunate that Robbie wasn’t fully ready to come back in but it’s important that he is given the time to recover ahead of a very busy and crucial block of game for us.

“We were all very disappointed for Jason Harris-Wright this week but we’re thankful to have the experience of Tom McCartney to step in for his first start in a slightly changed pack.

“The Scarlets are a well-coached side with huge squad depth and it’s been over three years since we beat them.

“Their win last week over an in-form Glasgow Warriors highlights the big challenge we face on Saturday. But with both teams vying to climb the table, it is set up for a great evening at a lively Sportsground.”

Wayne Pivac (Scarlets) – “The guys that have been doing the role over the last few weeks have done well in poor conditions and we’ve got some very good results.

“I’m pleased with how the squad’s been going. This is one more big 80-minute performance away from home for us before the internationals return.

“It’ll be a tough challenge. I’m told the conditions can be very challenging and Connacht have got talent in that side and are well-coached.

“Connacht are a serious threat to the top six for Europe and like us they’ll be pushing for top four. This game in particular is a very, very big game for us. In terms of where we sit on the points table it will be a crucial game.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Connacht – Points: Craig Ronaldson 24; Tries: Kieran Marmion, Eoin McKeon, Danie Poolman 2 each; Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 49; Tries: Gareth Davies 4


Saturday, September 10, 2011 – Connacht 13 Scarlets 11, the Sportsground
Friday, March 2, 2012 – Scarlets 38 Connacht 10, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Connacht 11 Scarlets 24, the Sportsground
Friday, February 8, 2013 – Scarlets 25 Connacht 15, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, November 23, 2013 – Connacht 21 Scarlets 24, the Sportsground
Sunday, March 30, 2014 – Scarlets 32 Connacht 30, Parc y Scarlets


– Conacht have lost just one of their last four GUINNESS PRO12 fixtures: 26-11 to the Ospreys in Swansea in round 7, while their 43-3 victory over Zebre last Friday was their second biggest win in the history of the PRO12

– The westerners are unbeaten at the Sportsground in any competition this season

– The Scarlets’ only defeat in their last six PRO12 matches was to Munster in Limerick in round 6, however the Welshmen have not won an away game in any competition since a trip to Treviso last February

– The Scarlets have won their last five encounters with Connacht since their 13-11 reversal at he Sportsground in September 2011