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Magners Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Magners Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Connacht will be all out to redeem themselves after an error-strewn display against Italian side Aironi last time out. Can Eric Elwood’s men make it six successive home wins at the Sportsground?

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 1

CONNACHT (8th) v EDINBURGH (9th), the Sportsground, 7.45pm (live TG4/BBC ALBA)

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Team News: Centre Keith Matthews will win his 100th cap for Connacht when he lines out for the province against Edinburgh at the Sportsground.

Matthews joined Connacht from Munster in 2005 and has been a regular feature in the Connacht squad since then.

“I was on a Development contract down in Munster when Brads (Michael Bradley) phoned me and offered me a spot,” explained the 28-year-old.

“I jumped at the chance to play regular Magners League rugby and haven’t looked back since. It’s taken a while to get to this milestone, I’ve had a few injuries along the way.

“Amongst other injuries I damaged my crutiate ligament against Munster in 2007 and was out for nine months so that didn’t help, but I’m delighted to reach 100 caps for Connacht. It’s a huge personal achievement.”

Matthews made his debut in Connacht’s 13-9 victory over the Cardiff Blues in September 2005 alongside current captain John Muldoon, current assistant coach Dan McFarland and recently-appointed video analyst Conor McPhillips.

He has scored 14 tries for the province and set up dozens more with his hard running and ferocious tackling.

“I’ve been involved in some great games over the years, beating Munster here at the Sportsground two years ago, beating Bourgoin in the quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup here last season and captaining the side against Munster on St. Stephen’s Day this season.

“Hopefully there’ll be many more to come. I’m enjoying my rugby more than ever and playing some of the best rugby of my career so I’ve no intention of giving up just yet!”

Matthews was part of the Ireland ‘A’ team that won the Churchill Cup in 2009, beating England Saxons in the final. That side also included Connacht’s John Muldoon and Sean Cronin.

Connacht’s starting line-up for the Edinburgh match shows three changes to the one from last weekend’s disappointing defeat to Aironi Rugby.

Matthews starts in place of the injured Niva Ta’auso, while Ronan Loughney and Bernie Upton come in for Brett Wilkinson and Michael Swift in the front row and second row respectively. Swift has a fractured hand.

Hooker Adrian Flavin could also earn his 100th cap this weekend. He is part of a replacements bench which includes fit-again duo Muldoon and Eoin Griffin and Ireland Under-20 scrum half Mark Dolan.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh will be seeking to build on their fine 23-16 win over Ospreys when they take on Connacht in Galway.

14 players who started against the Ospreys last Saturday have retain their places in the Edinburgh starting line-up.

The one change sees Geoff Cross, who impressed for Scotland in their last two Six Nations Championship matches, return at tighthead prop in place of David Young.

Mike Blair, who played his 100th Magners League game last weekend, continues his half-back pairing with Greig Laidlaw.

Ross Ford and Allan Jacobsen, who were mainstays of the Scotland pack during the Championship, are to be rested for Edinburgh’s final four Magners League fixtures.

Edinburgh interim head coach Nick Scrivener said: “Any coach will always want to field his strongest possible team – that’s natural and I’m no different.

“Player welfare has always been a top priority for Edinburgh, and we recognise and understand the need to balance our players’ commitments in what is a very busy rugby year.”

Dr. James Robson, the Scottish Rugby Union’s head of medical services, said: “Allan has niggling injuries in his shoulder and back which would respond best to a short period of rest.

“Ross Ford is fatigued and through circumstances beyond Edinburgh’s direct control they were unable to rest him earlier this season. It is best for Ross that he has that break now.

“Everyone involved in this process acknowledges and appreciates the importance of Edinburgh finishing the season in the strongest possible fashion.

“But we’re also mindful that next season is a hugely significant one for both club and country and as such our priority has to be the long-term interests of these players.”

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Troy Nathan, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Ronan Loughney, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Mike McCarthy, Bernie Upton, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor (capt), Ray Ofisa.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brett Wilkinson, Rodney Ah You, Mike McComish, John Muldoon, Mark Dolan, Eoin Griffin, Shane Monahan.

EDINBURGH: Jim Thompson; Simon Webster, Ben Cairns, James King, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly (capt), Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Esteban Lozada, Fraser McKenzie, Scott Newlands, David Denton.

Replacements: Alun Walker, Lewis Niven, Robin Hislop, Steven Turnbull, Roddy Grant, David Blair, Nick De Luca, Lee Jones.

Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Will O’Connor (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/9; Draw: 20/1; Edinburgh to win: 7/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “These next two home games are very important to us because our final two games will be particularly difficult, away to both Ulster and Munster.

“As a result, we need to get something from these fixtures. Last weekend’s loss to Aironi was very disappointing.

“We knew it was an important game, but we made far too many errors that cost us. You cannot afford to give a team like that opportunities. It gave them hope and they capitalised.

“This week is all about redemption. In the past we have bounced back and on Friday night we need a good performance and a win.

“We need to handle Edinburgh in attack, and cover the whole field because they are adept at finding gaps in defence. Conversely we need to ensure we have time in attack.

“Last weekend we made a lot of mistakes in attack so we will be looking to keep the ball, maintain our shape and structures and exert pressure on them.”

Nick Scrivener (Edinburgh) – “We performed really well as a team against Ospreys last weekend, and it’s going to take exactly the same levels of intensity and precision to get the result we want in Connacht.

“The weather forecast for Galway isn’t great, so we’re prepared for a lot of onus falling on our set piece.

“Our lineout went very well last time out, and we’ll now be looking for a repeat as well as the same degree of effectiveness from the scrum.

“Having Geoff (Cross) back in there should help in that regard. His all-round game has been very impressive for a number of months now, and we look forward to him maintaining that consistency.

“Elsewhere, we felt it was right and proper to show faith in the guys who delivered for us last week.

“I’m keen to see how partnerships and combinations develop, especially at half-back where Mike (Blair) and Greig (Laidlaw) showed some very encouraging signs.

“The Ospreys game should be the template for our last four matches. It’s about us going out and showing a hunger and absolute determination to win, so that we finish what has been an up-and-down season in really positive fashion.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 188; Tries: Fionn Carr, Brian Tuohy 5 each; Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 105; Tries: Tim Visser 12


Friday, March 21, 2008 – Edinburgh 38 Connacht 8, Murrayfield
Friday, October 24, 2008 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 27, the Sportsground
Friday, March 27, 2009 – Edinburgh 32 Connacht 5, Murrayfield
Friday, September 11, 2009 – Edinburgh 62 Connacht 13, Murrayfield
Friday, April 2, 2010 – Connacht 22 Edinburgh 21, the Sportsground
Friday, November 26, 2010 – Edinburgh 24 Connacht 19, Murrayfield


– The last four clashes between Connacht and Edinburgh have all been won by the home side on the day. Edinburgh have won just once at the Sportsground since 2006

– Connacht’s last eight Magners League games have all been won by the home side on the day

– The westerners have won their last five home matches in all competitions. Connacht have lost just one of their last five games against Scottish opponents

– Edinburgh’s seven-match losing run in all competitions ended at home to the Ospreys last Saturday

– The Scotsmen’s only away win in their last 19 trips was a 10-9 triumph in Aironi on October 2. Edinburgh have not won in Ireland since they visited Ulster in September 2009