Connacht meet Benetton Treviso for the first time in the Magners League, determined to make up for missing out on a losing bonus point against Leinster last weekend. A physical battle is in prospect at Stadio di Monigo.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 30
BENETTON TREVISO (8th) v CONNACHT (9th), Stadio di Monigo, 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time (live Dahlia TV)
Team News: Scrum half Cillian Willis and hooker Adrian Flavin will start for Connacht in their first ever Magners League visit to Stadio di Monigo.
Head coach Eric Elwood has chosen a strong team for this weekend’s clash with the Italians, as Connacht look to bounce back from an 18-6 derby defeat to Leinster.
The side shows two changes with hooker Adrian Flavin replacing Sean Cronin, who has international commitments with Ireland.
Cillian Willis has been preferred to Frank Murphy at scrum half. It will be the 25-year-old’s first league start for the westerners, after five runouts as a replacement.
Gavin Duffy, Brett Wilkinson and team captain John Muldoon will all start after being released by the Ireland management. The trio were training, alongside Cronin, at this week’s camp in Limerick.
Meanwhile, Niva Ta’auso has recovered sufficiently from a neck injury to continue his centre partnership with Keith Matthews.
Having failed to score a try in their last three league games against Ulster, the Cardiff Blues and Leinster, Elwood wants his side to up their efforts in attack.
“We are trying to develop that part of our game more, but tries in the Magners League are hard to come by,” he said.
“It’s more difficult when you are defending for long periods and when you do get your hands on the ball, you are fatigued, so we are trying to get a nice balance where we defend enough but also play with the ball a bit more.
“We are asking the boys to stay positive, we are not going to change the game too much, but we are trying to improve in that area.
“If you look at the Magners League, we have been very competitive and pushed teams all the way for the full 80 minutes. We have won two-and-a-half games. Yes, we are disappointed we lost out on a bonus point last weekend, but we were playing the former European champions.
“Leinster had a lot of possesion, their defence was excellent, tries were hard to come by, and we are disappointed, But we are doing a lot of good work and unfortunately we didn’t get a point out of the game for all the hard work.”
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso coach Franco Smith has made eight changes to the team that started last weekend’s 39-13 loss at Munster.
In the backs, scrum half Tobie Botes returns to partner Chris Burton at half-back, with Italy centre Gonzalo Garcia set to make his Magners League debut after recovering from the shoulder injury he sustained eight months ago. Tommaso Benvenuti will partner him in the centre.
Pedro di Santo joins international duo Leonardo Ghiraldini and Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet in the front row, and experienced flanker Alessandro Zanni bolsters the back row.
Included amongst the replacements, young prop Matteo Muccignat could make his first league appearance.
Treviso’s 12-point haul in the league to date has come courtesy of home wins over the Scarlets, Leinster and the Newport Gwent Dragons.
BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Tommaso Benvenuti, Gonzalo Garcia, Joe Maddock; Chris Burton, Tobie Botes; Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Pedro di Santo, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Corniel van Zyl, Benjamin Vermaak, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri.
Replacements: Franco Sbaraglini, Matteo Muccignat, Lorenzo Cittadini, Enrico Pavanello, Marco Filippucci, Alberto Sgarbi, Fabio Semenzato, Simon Picone.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Cillian Willis; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Barry Fa’amausili, Bernie Upton, Ezra Taylor, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Troy Nathan.
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Giulio de Santis, Claudio Passacantando (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Stefano Mancini (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Connacht to win: 2/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We have been monitoring Treviso closely over the last few weeks and we know they rested seven players last week against Munster so they will be waiting for us.
“They are making a big push with an emphasis on home matches so it’s a big test for us. Leinster came unstuck there and they pushed Leicester in the Heineken Cup recently.
“We feel with our best players (fit and available), we are going to be competitive. We are modifying training this week.
“The Bayonne and Leinster games were physically demanding, and this one will be the same, so we want the lads to feel fresh.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Benetton Treviso – Points: Tobie Botes 52; Tries: Brendan Williams 2; Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 84; Tries: Fionn Carr 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
– All 12 of the Magners League points have claimed this season have come from games played at Stadio di Monigo.
– Treviso have already beaten an Irish province this season, lowering the colours of Leinster, 29-13, on September 18
– Connacht’s only victory in their last five matches in all competitions was a 16-13 win at home to Bayonne in the Amlin Challenge Cup
– Connacht have already lost in Italy this season, going down 23-21 to Eccellenza side I Cavalieri Estra in their Amlin Challenge Cup pool earlier this month
– These two teams have never met before