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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Connacht showed tremendous grit to battle back and claim a draw with Glasgow Warriors last time out. Can they go one better against another Scottish side, Edinburgh, and produce a performance which would earn them their first RaboDirect PRO12 win since September?

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, February 24

CONNACHT (11th) v EDINBURGH (9th), the Sportsground, 7.30pm (live Galway Bay FM)

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Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team and replacements for Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 match against Edinburgh.

Academy prop Denis Buckley earns his first competitive start for the province in the absence of Brett Wilkinson, who is involved with the Ireland set-up this weekend.

The 22-year-old Buckley made his debut for Connacht last September against Benetton Treviso and despite being a member of the Connacht Academy, the Creggs-born loosehead has made a big impact in a number of Connacht’s major games this season.

With five caps to date, Buckley has starred against both Italian outfits, including Connacht’s season opening victory over Treviso, as well as European powerhouses Toulouse and the famous Heineken Cup victory over Harlequins in the Sportsground.

The only other change to the starting line-up sees the return of Frank Murphy at scrum half. Murphy has been out of action with a groin injury since early January. His return to full fitness sees him replace Paul O’Donohoe in the number 9 jersey.

Connacht’s match against Edinburgh is not being televised so the only way to catch all the action live is by getting down to the Sportsground on Friday night. Tickets can be purchased from www.connachtrugby.ie orr www.ticketmaster.ie.

Meanwhile, Michael Bradley will make his first return to the Sportsground as head coach of Edinburgh Rugby as the club seek a return to winning ways against his former side Connacht.

The former Ireland scrum half has made four personnel changes to the starting line-up from Edinburgh’s away loss to the Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend.

There are three changes in the backs with Chris Paterson, Jim Thompson and Gregor Hunter starting at full-back, outside centre and out-half espectively, while Andrew Kelly gets his second start of the season at hooker.

Paterson and Thompson replace Sep Visser and the injured John Houston, and Kelly and Hunter swap places with Phil Godman and Alun Walker who have dropped to the replacements bench.

Two further changes have been made to the bench with Stirling County prop Mike MacDonald brought in for the injured Robin Hislop (rib) and Dougie Fife taking the full-back replacement space vacated by Thompson.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Fetu’u Vainikolo, Kyle Tonetti, Henry Fa’afili, Tiernan O’Halloran; Niall O’Connor, Frank Murphy; Denis Buckley, Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Eoghan Grace, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Dylan Rogers/Brett Wilkinson, Stewart Maguire, Michael Kearney, Ray Ofisa, Paul O’Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, Eoin Griffin.

EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson; Tom Brown, Jim Thompson, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Gregor Hunter, Chris Leck; Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Jack Gilding, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, Stuart McInally, Roddy Grant (capt), Netani Talei.

Replacements: Alun Walker, Mike MacDonald, Ulises Gamboa, Esteban Lozada, Hamish Watson, Alex Black, Phil Godman, Dougie Fife.

Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Stuart Gaffikin (both Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/5; Draw: 18/1; Edinburgh to win: Evens

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “The most pleasing thing of all (about the Glasgow match) is that we got two points from a game that at half-time we didn’t think we would,” Elwood told the Galway Advertiser.

“The key for us is to get a performance, get the intensity and tempo levels up in our game, and get the four points which ultimately we are looking for.

“Tim Visser is a huge player for the way Edinburgh play, a huge threat, and one that has always caused us problems.

“But we have a good record against them so we know we are capable of beating them. We just have to put all the elements together that are ultimately good enough to win the match.

“It’s a home game and a big opportunity for four points. If we win, we leapfrog Edinburgh (in the table) – that’s what we are looking for.”

Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “On a personal level I’ve a lot of fond memories from my time at Connacht and am looking forward to going back but, from a performance perspective, I know exactly how tough it is for teams to take any points away from the Sportground.

“I know the set-up and the side very well and have naturally tried to use that to our advantage as we’ve prepared for this match.

“However our emphasis has, as ever, been on how we need to play to win, rather than on any sort of inside knowledge.

“When the game kicks off on Fridat night it will be business as usual, with our focus fully on coming away with the win.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Niall O’Connor 75; Tries: Tiernan O’Halloran 4; Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 123; Tries: Tim Visser 10


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
Friday, April 1, 2011 – Connacht 27 Edinburgh 23, the Sportsground
Friday, September 16, 2011 – Edinburgh 19 Connacht 14, Murrayfield


– Connacht halted a run of ten straight defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12 with their 13-13 draw with Glasgow Warriors in Galway last Saturday evening

– Connacht have not won a PRO12 match since their 17-13 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground on September 23

– Edinburgh have slipped to four successive losses in the RaboDirect PRO12, and have not won since round 10 at home to Aironi

– The Scotsmen’s only two away victories in the league since December 2009 have both been in Italy

– The last six encounters between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, while Edinburgh have not won at the Sportsground since October 2008