With the matches coming thick and fast, Connacht will be hugely motivated to stop their recent rot and get back on track in the RaboDirect PRO12 when they entertain Benetton Treviso, who sit two places above them, on Friday night.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, December 2
CONNACHT (9th) v BENETTON TREVISO (7th), the Sportsground, 7.30pm (live Galway Bay FM)
Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his starting line-up to face Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground on Friday.
Elwood has opted for a team that blends an experienced pack with an exciting and dynamic back-line. In total there are seven changes to the side that started against the Ospreys last weekend.
Ethienne Reynecke and Ronan Loughney have been called into the front row. They join Brett Wilkinson after making their mark against Toulouse a fortnight ago.
A powerful second row combination of Michael Swift and George Naoupu backs them up, while David Gannon, John Muldoon and Ray Ofisa, who earns his 100th cap for Connacht, complete the back row.
Frank Murphy and Niall O’Connor make for a changed half-back pairing. The duop last started together in Connacht’s narrow defeat to the Cardiff Blues in October.
Centre sensation David McSharry moves back to inside centre, while Connacht’s latest signing, Kyle Tonetti, gets his first taste of senior action at outside centre. The 24-year-old flyer joined Connacht from Sale Sharks recently.
Mark McCrea earns a start on the right wing. The former Ireland underage international scored the match-winning try against the Dragons earlier this season.
McCrea joins fellow winger Tiernan O’Halloran and full-back and captain Gavin Duffy in a potent-looking back-three.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso boss Franco Smith has made several changes to the side that started against Leinster last time out.
Ludovico Nitoglia returns as full-back, joining key man Brendan Williams and Tommaso Iannone in the back-three. Andrea Pratichetti, who is available again for club duty, makes his seasonal debut together with Ezio Galon in thecentre.
Fabio Semenzato and Willem de Waal will be the half-backs, while in the pack there are a number of alterations.
The second row is completely new, with Benjamin Vermaak and Francesco Minto lining out together. In the back row, Manoa Vosawai and Paul Derbyshire have been selected as the flankers and Marco Filippucci will anchor the visitors’ scrum at number 8.
In the front row Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet gets the nod at tighthead prop, linking up with Franco Sbaraglini at hooker and Michele Rizzo on the loosehead side – the latter replaces the injured Antonio Pavanello and the suspended Leonardo Ghiraldini as skipper.
On the bench, Edoardo Gori is standing by to make his debut for the Italian outfit.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Mark McCrea, Kyle Tonetti, David McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran; Niall O’Connor, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, George Naoupu, David Gannon, John Muldoon, Ray Ofisa.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Michael Kearney, Eoghan Grace, Paul O’Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, Fetu’u Vainikolo.
BENETTON TREVISO: Ludovico Nitoglia; Tommaso Iannone, Ezio Galon, Andrea Pratichetti, Brendan Williams; Willem de Waal, Fabio Semenzato; Michele Rizzo (capt), Franco Sbaraglini, Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet, Francesco Minto, Benjamin Vermaak, Manoa Vosawai, Paul Derbyshire, Marco Filippucci.
Replacements: Diego Vidal, Matteo Muccignat, Lorenzo Cittadini, Corniel van Zyl, Valerio Bernabò, Gonzalo Padrò, Edoardo Gori, Kris Burton.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Sean Gallagher (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/9; Draw: 16/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 7/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We’re not in a happy place at the moment. We’re putting good phases of play together but then turn it over or are just not finishing the chances. That’s frustrating and we need to learn from game to game.
“There are games every week now so you need to take the lesson from one and correct it for the next, so all our attention is on Treviso.
“It’s tough, but things are never easy here. We targeted the Ospreys game and we were disappointed to get nothing for our big effort. We just have to dust ourselves down and get ready – it’s all we can do. It’s our job.
“It’s disappointing. We gave away two soft scores and when we got into the opposition 22, we lost the ball six or seven times in contact.
“If you get chances like that, you’ve got to take them. We have to be more clinical, more ruthless and more physical.”
Franco Smith (Benetton Treviso) – “It’s hard to say where we want to finish in the RaboDirect PRO12 but we want to cause as many upsets as we can and let all the other teams know who we are.
“I’m very proud that we won four straight games but against Edinburgh we dominated and should have beaten them.
“But I think what shows how far we’ve come is, it’s not the big things that are the problem, not the structure, not the mentality or lineouts or the scrums, but the small things which you can improve.
“If each player makes a tiny error out there, that’s still 15 mistakes in a match and that is still too many. The four-match winning run is behind us and we’ve lost two matches since, so we need to get back on track.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the level we want to be at, we’ve got the characters and the experience. That is all we need, but it’s not what you know but what you do with what you know that counts.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Niall O’Connor 42; Tries: Gavin Duffy 3; Benetton Treviso – Points: Kris Burton 88; Tries: Ludovico Nitoglia, Brendan Williams 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 30, 2010 – Benetton Treviso 24 Connacht 17, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, March 4, 2011 – Connacht 31 Benetton Treviso 25, the Sportsground
Saturday, September 3, 2011 – Benetton Treviso 9 Connacht 11, Stadio di Monigo
– Connacht have lost seven successive matches in all competitions since their 17-13 victory at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12
– Connacht have won four of their last five encounters with Italian opponents
– Benetton Treviso have lost back-to-back games in the RaboDirect PRO12 against Edinburgh and Leinster
– The Italians have won their last two away matches in the league – at Glasgow and Ulster – whilst prior to that, Treviso had won just one game on the road in the history of the competition
– Connacht won 11-9 when the two teams met at the Stadio di Monigo in round 1. Last season each side won its respective home encounter