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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Connacht, who were soundly beaten 43-10 by Edinburgh earlier in the campaign, are hoping to find form when they host Alan Solomons’ rusty Scottish side at the Sportsground on Saturday.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, February 15

CONNACHT (12th) v EDINBURGH (8th), the Sportsground, 5pm (live Galway Bay FM)

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Team News: The Connacht team to face Edinburgh at the Sportsground on Saturday has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to the side that lined out in Glasgow last weekend.

Following his start in last weekend’s Connacht Eagles game, Dave McSharry makes a welcome PRO12 return to partner Eoin Griffin in the centre.

His return to full fitness allows Craig Ronaldson to shift to out-half where he forms the half-back pairing with Kieran Marmion.

The Galway-born Tiernan O’Halloran has been named to start on the left wing and features in an all-Irish qualified back-line.

Up front, Connacht’s most-capped player Michael Swift is brought into the second row. His introduction means that Andrew Browne moves back to openside flanker.

Number 8 John Muldoon will captain the side at the Sportsground on Saturday evening.

The round 14 fixture is not on TV so the only way to get in on the action is to get down to the Galway stadium. Tickets start at just €;20 for adults and it is €;5 for all juniors. Click here to purchase tickets online.

Tickets can also be purchased from the Connacht Rugby office and from Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has selected the same starting side for their trip to Galway.

The Scottish club were due to play the Newport Gwent Dragons last Sunday but for the inclement Welsh weather and an unplayable pitch – Edinburgh’s second successive PRO12 fixture to fall foul of the elements.

The postponement delayed the debut of Andries Strauss and first starts for Mike Coman, Carl Bezuidenhout and James Hilterbrand.

The only changes to the squad named last week appear on the bench where Scotland front rowers Ross Ford and Geoff Cross return from international duty to replace elite development duo Geoge Turner and Ewan McQuillin.

CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Fionn Carr, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran; Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Michael Kearney, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, JP Cooney, Aly Muldowney, George Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Dan Parks, Darragh Leader.

EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Nick De Luca, Andries Strauss, Tom Brown; Carl Bezuidenhout, Grayson Hart; Wicus Blaauw, James Hilterbrand, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Izak van der Westhuizen, Mike Coman (capt), Roddy Grant, Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: Ross Ford, Alex Allan, Geoff Cross, Ollie Atkins, Tomas Leonardi, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sam Beard, Harry Leonard.

Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Olly Hodges, Mark Connolly (both Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 4/6; Draw: 16/1; Edinburgh to win: 5/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “It’s a great boost to have Dave (McSharry) back from injury. He came through the Eagles game last week and his experience will be valuable against Edinburgh this weekend.

“Tiernan (O’Halloran) is a player who has worked hard to earn his place in the team. He went away to work on certain aspects of his game over the last few weeks and it was clear from his performance with the Eagles that he deserves this start.

“With such a physical game expected against a team like Edinburgh, it’s good to be able to call on ‘Swifty’ for his experience and grunt up front.

“It was a short week and we had to put the disappointment of Glasgow quickly behind us. It was another opportunity missed, we know that. But it’s fantastic to be back on our home pitch this weekend.

“We haven’t had a game in front of our home fans in five weeks. The team are very much aware of what we have to do for Connacht Rugby and its supporters tomorrow.”

Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “Missing the game against the Dragons in Newport was big because we have now not played for a month which will have an impact. We will naturally be a bit rusty.

“The positive side is that we have had more time to practice because there are, during the Six Nations, quite substantial changes to the team.

“All things being considered, the players have prepared well and are ready for this game.

“You always have a tough game against Connacht, especially in Galway. Most of the sides that go there know they are in for a battle.

“They are a very gritty team and are particularly difficult in Galway where conditions are often difficult, especially at this time of year on what is a fairly exposed field.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 68; Tries: Matt Healy, Fionn Carr 3 each; Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 62; Tries: Dougie Fife 4


Friday, April 1, 2011 – Connacht 27 Edinburgh 23, the Sportsground
Friday, September 16, 2011 – Edinburgh 19 Connacht 14, Murrayfield
Friday, February 24, 2012 – Connacht 26 Edinburgh 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Connacht 23 Edinburgh 24, the Sportsground
Friday, April 12, 2013 – Edinburgh 24 Connacht 32, Murrayfield
Friday, November 29, 2013 – Edinburgh 43 Connacht 10, Murrayfield


– Connacht have won just one of their last twelve RaboDirect PRO12 matches: 14-11 at home to the Dragons on December 21

– The westerners have lost their last four contests with Scottish opponents since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield last April

– Edinburgh have not played in the league since December 26 having suffered two postponements in away games due to waterlogged pitches

– The Scotsmen have won just once on the road this season: 16-10 at Gloucester in the Heineken Cup in December

– Edinburgh’s only victory in Ireland since September 2009 was at Connacht in December 2012

– The last eight fixtures between the two sides have been evenly split with four wins apiece, with Edinburgh winning by the narrowest of margins on their last visit to Galway in round 10 last season