Jump to main content


RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Aironi Rugby v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Aironi Rugby v Connacht

Two of the RaboDirect PRO12’s bottom three sides will collide in Viadana on Saturday as Connacht, determined to end their frustrating 12-match losing streak, look to overcome Aironi for the first time on Italian soil.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, January 7

AIRONI RUGBY (12th) v CONNACHT (10th), Stadio Zaffanella, 4.35pm local time/3.35pm Irish time (live TG4/Rai Sport 1)

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team and replacements to face Aironi Rugby in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at Stadio Zaffanella.

The 23-man squad sees the return of Connacht’s towering second row Michael Swift and versatile prop Dylan Rogers to the pack, while scrum half Frank Murphy joins centre David McSharry and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo as the changes in the back-line.

The 6ft 5in, 18 stone Swift is Connacht’s most-capped player with a staggering 207 caps over 11 seasons for the province.

He has recently signed a contract extension that will see him remain with the westerners until at least the end of the 2012/13 season.

This weekend Swift will mark his return to the starting line-up following a two-week break with a knee injury. Dylan

Rogers, meanwhile, replaces the injured Ronan Loughney at tighthead prop. The 27-year-old South African-born front rower can play on either side of the scrum and earned the call-up after impressing from the bench in last weekend’s narrow loss to Leinster.

Murphy comes in for Paul O’Donohoe at scrum half and McSharry returns to centre following a week’s lay-off while a nasty chin injury healed.

The 21-year-old McSharry, who recently penned a two-year deal with the province, has been ever-present in the squad since earning his first cap against Ulster earlier this season.

Vainikolo returns to the right wing to replace the injured Brian Tuohy. Tuohy underwent surgery earlier this week to repair a broken leg sustained in the New Year’s Day derby against Leinster and looks set to miss most of the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, Giulio Toniolatti, Tyson Keats and Joshua Furno return to the Aironi squad as the league’s basement side host Connacht for only the second time in their history.

Toniolatti, who became a father for the first time last week, returns on the right wing with Sinoti Sinoti switching to the opposite side. Andrea Masi will feature at full-back and the centre berths are filled by Roberto Quartaroli and Gabriel Pizarro.

At half-back, after two weeks off, Keats is back at scrum half alongside Luciano Orquera, who has landed 12 of the last 13 shots at the posts.

In the pack the only change is in the second row where Furno returns to pair up with captain Marco Bortolami.

The replacements bench boasts plenty of experience with Salvatore Perugini, Mauro Bergamasco, Quintin Geldenhuys and Tito Tebaldi all held in reserve.

AIRONI RUGBY: Andrea Masi; Giulio Toniolatti, Roberto Quartaroli, Gabriel Pizarro, Sinoti Sinoti; Luciano Orquera, Tyson Keats; Alberto de Marchi, Roberto Santamaria, Fabio Staibano, Joshua Furno, Marco Bortolami (capt), Nicola Cattina, Simone Favaro, Josh Sole.

Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Salvatore Perugini, Lorenzo Romano, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Tito Tebaldi, Naas Olivier, Alberto Benettin.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Fetu’u Vainikolo, Kyle Tonetti, David McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran; Matthew Jarvis, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Dylan Rogers, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Denis Buckley, Stewart Maguire, Eoin McKeon, Ray Ofisa, Paul O’Donohoe, Niall O’Connor, Henry Fa’afili.

Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Alan Falzone, Stefano Roscini (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Steffano Marrama (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Aironi Rugby to win: 10/11; Draw: 18/1; Connacht to win: 10/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We had a couple of good sessions with the kickers last week, but it is a work in progress,” Elwood told the Galway Advertiser.

“Obviously it is how those players react under the pressure of kicking a couple of penalties to win tight games. At the moment it’s a delicate one because you do not know which one will give you that consistency.

“Aironi see this as their big game of the season, we are the same, and I think it will be another bruiser. They are physical and uncompromising in how they defend and play.

“We probably tried to play too much rugby last time (we played Aironi away), so we need to be a bit more tactically astute in how we approach and play this game – we need to play smart rugby and then winning rugby in the right areas.

“It sounds like a broken record, but the level of performance (against Leinster) was excellent, the level of intensity was very good.

“We know we need to play at that level, even a step higher, and certainly our discipline must be vastly improved. When you are playing away from home and playing a ‘must win’ game, you have to play the game in the right areas and have strong discipline.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Aironi Rugby – Points: Naas Olivier 59; Tries: Nick Williams 5; Connacht – Points: Niall O’Connor 59; Tries: Gavin Duffy 3


Friday, March 11, 2011 – Connacht 11 Aironi Rugby 6, the Sportsground
Saturday, March 26, 2011 – Aironi Rugby 25 Connacht 13, Stadio Zaffanella


– Aironi Rugby beat Italian adversaries Benetton Treviso 27-13 on December 23 at Stadio Zaffanella and are attempting to win back-to-back home games for the first time

– Aironi’s only previous success against an Irish side came in this equivalent fixture in Viadana last season

– Connacht seem unable to break out of their losing streak which now stands at a dozen matches in all competitions since they beat the Newport Gwent Dragons 17-13 at the Sportsground back in September

– Connacht’s only away win in the RaboDirect PRO12 since September 2010 remains their 11-9 triumph at Treviso in round 1 this season

– Each side won its respective home encounter when the two teams met last season