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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

The Cardiff Blues have been a bogey team for Connacht over the years. The westerners have never beaten the Blues at the Arms Park, and can only boast two previous wins over the Welsh region in Galway (September 2005 and September 2009).

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, February 22

CARDIFF BLUES (7th) v CONNACHT (9th), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.30pm

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Team News: The Connacht team to take on the Cardiff Blues on Friday night in round 16 of the RaboDirect PRO12 has been named.

Eric Elwood’s side travel to the Arms Park for the Friday night fixture and there are five changes to the team that beat the Ospreys last time out.

While Robbie Henshaw remains in camp with the Ireland squad, fit-again skipper Gavin Duffy, who earned his 150th Connacht cap last weekend, will start at full-back in the Welsh capital.

Fetu’u Vainikolo has been named in the left wing, replacing Tiernan O’Halloran who suffered a knee injury against the Ospreys.

With centres David McSharry (groin) and Kyle Tonetti (shoulder) both unavailable, the 27-year-old Brian Murphy will start at inside centre.

The Galway-born Murphy joined Connacht last summer from Ulster Bank League club Galwegians. He came through the Connacht age-grade system and has represented Ireland at Schools and Under-21 level.

In a late switch, a hamstring injury has forced top scorer Dan Parks out of the starting line-up. Miah Nikora will take over at out-half with Lansdowne’s Matt Healy added to the replacements bench.

There is just one change up front with Andrew Browne replacing Michael Kearney in the second row.

Denis Buckley, who recently returned from injury, is listed among the replacements along with back rower Thomas Anderson and versatile back Matthew Jarvis who have both been lining out for Garryowen in the Ulster Bank League.

Meanwhile, Cardiff full-back Chris Czekaj will make his first start of the season when the Blues take on Connacht.

Czekaj is back from a lengthy absence having recovered from the foot injury he suffered against Worcester in a pre-season friendly in August.

His inclusion is the only change to the back-line from the 17-16 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield. In the forwards, Kristian Dacey and Benoit Bourrust have been added the front row and Mike Paterson, the Blues’ try scorer against Edinburgh, moves to the back row.

His spot in the second row is taken by Macauley Cook with Rory Watts-Jones taking the openside flanker role from the benched Thomas Young.

There were three players released from the Wales squad who might have featured for the Blues, but flanker Josh Navidi has been ruled out with a hamstring strain and club captain Andries Pretorius is nursing a shoulder injury.

However, prop Scott Andrews, who has five Wales caps to his name, is listed among the replacements for Phil Davies’ side.

CARDIFF BLUES: Chris Czekaj; Owen Williams, Richard Smith, Gavin Evans (capt), Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones; Taufa’ao Filise, Kristian Dacey, Benoit Bourrust, Macauley Cook, James Down, Mike Paterson, Rory Watts-Jones, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Rhys Williams, Nathan Trevett, Scott Andrews, Luke Hamilton, Thomas Young, Liam Davies, Ceri Sweeney, Jason Tovey.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Brian Murphy, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Denis Buckley, Ronan Loughney, Michael Kearney, Thomas Anderson, Paul O’Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, Matt Healy.

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Jason Langdon (both Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 3/10; Draw: 22/1; Connacht to win: 5/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We need the same level of intensity and the same discipline as we showed against the Ospreys last weekend. If we can back it up and reproduce that form in Wales, I am confident,” he told the Galway Advertiser.

“We showed last week what we are capable of. Our defence was excellent, our attack was good. We need to play with that same intensity, while also keeping our discipline, to have a chance.

“We’ve set our own targets and goals and points that we’re looking for and the win against the Ospreys has gone a long way in putting things right.

“We have an opportunity in Cardiff and then we come back the following week at home to Zebre. So there’s still good challenges, good opportunities ahead of us and certainly the four points (against the Ospreys) has helped.”

Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) – “It was good to get the result up in Scotland last weekend against Edinburgh. We played well and our defence was strong. We’ve built our performances and had some good results since the start of the year.

“We want to continue building on that and gather some momentum. I’m sure that Connacht will be a tough encounter for us. They are a good team, a very direct side who kick well and run hard.

“Our defence will have to be up to the mark and our back-three I’m sure will have a busy night.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 74; Tries: Alex Cuthbert 3; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 87; Tries: Danie Poolman 4


Sunday, December 6, 2009 – Cardiff Blues 21 Connacht 9, Cardiff City Stadium
Thursday, September 30, 2010 – Cardiff Blues 22 Connacht 6, Cardiff City Stadium
Friday, April 15, 2011 – Connacht 12 Cardiff Blues 26, the Sportsground
Saturday, October 29, 2011 – Connacht 20 Cardiff Blues 26, the Sportsground
Friday, February 10, 2012 – Cardiff Blues 22 Connacht 15, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, September 1, 2012 – Connacht 9 Cardiff Blues 13, the Sportsground


– The Cardiff Blues’ last three games in the RaboDirect PRO12 have remarkably all been won by the away side on the day

– The Blues have won just one of their last six games at the Arms Park in the PRO12: 12-10 over the Dragons back in late December

– Connacht beat the Ospreys 22-10 in Galway in round 15 but have not won back-to-back contests in the league since April

– The westerners’ only away win in the PRO12 this season remains the victory at Zebre in round 2

– Connacht have won just two of their 19 previous matches with the Blues, both in Galway, in September 2005 (13-9) and September 2009 (18-16)

– Connacht’s only win at the Arms Park was 6-3 over Cardiff RFC back in August 2001