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Magners Preview: Connacht v Aironi Rugby

Magners Preview: Connacht v Aironi Rugby

Connacht have had three home games during the Six Nations period and won all of them. They will be hoping to extend that run when new opponents Aironi make their first trip to Galway.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 11

CONNACHT (8th) v AIRONI RUGBY (12th), the Sportsground, 7.35pm (live TG4)

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Team News: Connacht have announced their team and replacements for Friday’s Magners League encounter with Aironi at the Sportsground.

This rescheduled fixture is the first meeting between Connacht and Italian outfit Aironi and the only league match this weekend.

Connacht are on a good run of late, winning five out of their last six games in all competitions with the only loss coming at the hands of last season’s Magners League champions, the Ospreys.

Aironi, on the other hand, are still at the foot of the table but have put in some very impressive performances of late, including last weekend’s effort at Ravenhill where they put in a spirited performance against Ulster

Connacht’s selected team shows one enforced change to the side that beat Benetton Treviso 31-25 last Friday.

Hooker Sean Cronin has been selected in the Ireland squad to face Wales in the Six Nations, so Adrian Flavin returns to the westerners’ front row with Dermot Murphy added to the replacements.

The other alteration is on the bench where the province’s regular captain John Muldoon makes a welcome return after a three month lay-off with a broken arm.

Muldoon suffered the injury against Harlequins in December, and his availability is a big boost to a Connacht back row that has been outstanding of late.

With Muldoon on the bench, the side will again be captained by Galway native Johnny O’Connor. The Connacht centurion has been leading by example on the pitch since he recently assumed the captaincy, showing his tenacity at the breakdown and winning two man-of-the-match awards.

Connacht would also like to reassure fans that all tickets bought for the original fixture in December are valid for Friday’s tie.

There will be a family atmosphere on the night at the Sportsground with face painting and goodies for kids. Tickets are still available to purchase here.

Meanwhile, there is also just one change to the Aironi starting line-up for their second game on Irish soil in the space of a week.

Tito Tebaldi returns at scrum half, with loan player Pietro Travagli set to line out for Petrarca Padova in the Italian Championship this weekend.

James Marshall will start at full-back, with Riccardo Bocchino linking up with Tebaldi at half-back. Danwel Demas and Kaine Robertson will look to cause problems for Connacht on the wings, while Matteo Pratichetti and Gilberto Pavan form the centre partnership.

The back row sees ex-Munster back rower Nick Williams, Gareth Krause and Josh Sole join forces, while captain Marco Bortolami and Joshua Furno combine in the second row.

The Italian side’s front row contains Alberto de Marchi, hooker Roberto Santamaria and Buenos Aires-born tighthead Ulises Gamboa, who will be making his second league start.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Niva Ta’auso, Troy Nathan, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor (capt), Ray Ofisa.

Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Keith Matthews.

AIRONI RUGBY: James Marshall; Kaine Robertson, Gilberto Pavan, Matteo Pratichetti, Danwel Demas; Riccardo Bocchino, Tito Tebaldi; Alberto de Marchi, Roberto Santamaria, Ulises Gamboa, Joshua Furno, Marco Bortolami (capt), Josh Sole, Gareth Krause, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Luigi Ferraro, Andrea de Marchi, Luca Redolfini, George Biagi, Nicola Cattina, Giulio Toniolatti, Gabriel Pizarro, Giulio Rubini.

Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Alan Rogan, Barrie O’Connell (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/9; Draw: 25/1; Aironi Rugby to win: 5/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “Aironi are getting better and better. In the last seven games no team has taken five points off them, and I have no doubt they will beat someone soon and I just hope it’s not us.

“All the statistics would suggest it is going to be an easy game, but we do not see at it like that. We are not taking anything for granted because we are in no position to take anything for granted.

“They will pride themselves on their set piece and maul and they like to scrummage – they also kick to put the opposition under pressure.

“They possess a capability to chuck the ball around as well, so we are expecting a physical battle and a tough confrontation.”

Rowland Phillips (Aironi Rugby) – “The most positive thing from the last game (against Ulster) was that, after the first 20 minutes, we started to play our game not only to be competitive, but to win the game.

“We showed good structures both in offense and defence to dominate the second half at Ravenhill.

“If we are able to build on that performance, it could be another step towards our first league win.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 169; Tries: Fionn Carr, Brian Tuohy 5 each; Aironi Rugby – Points: Ludovic Mercier 44; Tries: Nick Williams 3




– This game was originally postponed on December 3 due to snow at the Sportsground in Galway

– Connacht have won five of their last six matches in all competitions, and are entertaining an Italian side for the second successive week

– The westerners have won their last four home games, but have not won five in-a-row at the Sportsground since the 2005/06 season

– Aironi have gained just one league point outside of Italy, during their 21-16 loss to Leinster at the RDS last month

– While the two teams have never met before, Connacht have a perfect played 6, won 6 record at home to sides from Italy in all competitions