Seven points is the largest winning margin from the four previous clashes between Connacht and Benetton Treviso, and another close game could be in the offing at the Sportsground this evening.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, November 3
CONNACHT (10th) v BENETTON TREVISO (8th), the Sportsground, 5pm (live Galway Bay FM)
Team News: Danie Poolman will make his first start for Connacht after being named at outside centre for the RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground.
South African Poolman is one of six personnel changes to the team that started against the Ospreys last weekend, with four of those in the pack.
Denis Buckley returns to the starting line-up at loosehead prop while Mike McCarthy, on his release from the Irish camp, joins Michael Swift in the second row.
Fit-again flanker Andrew Browne was back to full training this week and will link up with Johnny O’Connor and Eoin McKeon in the westerners’ back row.
The half-back pairing of Kieran Marmion and Dan Parks remains unchanged, while David McSharry will start alongside Poolman in midfield.
Robbie Henshaw resumes his full-back role for the clash with the Italian side, with fit-again captain Gavin Duffy making a welcome return to the matchday squad on the bench.
This is Connacht’s first home league match since the fantastic 34-6 win over Leinster in September and head coach Eric Elwood is looking for a repeat of that display against Benetton Treviso.
“It has become a ‘must win’ game for us and it is well within our range. We just need to cut out some of the errors and capitalise on the chances we are creating,” he said.
“It has been a busy period but there is a break (for the November internationaals) coming up and we need to go into that with a win under our belts.”
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso boss Franco Smith can rely on key men Luca Morisi, Manoa Vosawai and Alberto de Marchi for their third ever league visit to Galway.
The Italians will field a much-changed starting line-up compared to the side that lost 24-13 at home to Glasgow Warriors, with two permit players included – Petrarca Padova flanker Enrico Targa and Andrew Vilk of Cammi Calvisano.
Lock Marco Fuser will make his full debut for the club alongside captain Corniel van Zyl, and left winger Angelo Esposito is also set to for his first start.
Alberto di Bernardo returns from injury at out-half with Christian Loamanu joining Andrea Pratichetti in the centre. In the forwards, Matteo Muccignat will make his bow at loosehead prop.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Danie Poolman, David McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (capt), Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Eoin McKeon
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, John Muldoon, Michael Kearney, David Moore, Miah Nikora, Gavin Duffy.
BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Andrew Vilk, Christian Loamanu, Andrea Pratichetti, Angelo Esposito; Alberto di Bernardo, Fabio Semenzato; Matteo Muccignat, Franco Sbaraglini, Jacobus Roux, Marco Fuser, Corniel van Zyl (capt), Manoa Vosawai, Valerio Bernabò, Marco Filippucci.
Replacements: Enrico Ceccato, Alberto de Marchi, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Giovanni Maistri, Enrico Targa, Giulio Toniolatti, James Ambrosini, Luca Morisi.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, Eddie Hogan O’Connell (both Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 1/4; Draw: 22/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 3/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We know it’s a game Treviso will be targeting and we will certainly have to take the game to them. We need to be physical and work hard to grind out a win,” he told the Galway Advertiser.
“They beat us here last year so we know it will be difficult, but this is all about getting the job done and getting the four points on offer.
“Last weekend we were up against a quality (Ospreys) side that was near full strength, but we were disappointed with the performance. We remained in contention throughout, but we need to learn how to grind out results.
“We are certainly putting pressure on ourselves to take the four points against Treviso.
“This is our last in a series of 10 games on the bounce and we want to finish it on a high. Although we have not had the ideal preparations this week, it’s a game we would have targeted.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Miah Nikora 32; Tries: George Naoupu, Tiernan O’Halloran 2 each; Benetton Treviso – Points: Robert Barbieri 30; Tries: Robert Barbieri 6
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 30, 2010 – Benetton Treviso 24 Connacht 17, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, March 4, 2011 – Connacht 31 Benetton Treviso 25, the Sportsground
Saturday, September 3, 2011 – Benetton Treviso 9 Connacht 11, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, December 2, 2011 – Connacht 13 Benetton Treviso 15, the Sportsground
– Connacht’s only victory in their last five RaboDirect PRO12 encounters was 34-6 at home to Leinster in round 5
– The westerners have won their last three games against Italian opponents in all competitions
– Benetton Treviso’s two-match winning run in the PRO12 ended at home to Glasgow Warriors last Saturday
– Benetton Treviso have lost their last six fixtures against Irish provinces, since beating Connacht 15-13 at Galway in this equivalent match last season
– Honours are even in the four previous clashes between the two sides, with two wins apiece