The Connacht players are hoping to give departing coaches Eric Elwood, Mike Forshaw and Billy Millard a winning send-off when the curtain comes down on their 2012/13 campaign at the Sportsground tonight.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, May 3
CONNACHT (8th) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (3rd), the Sportsground, 7.45pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC ALBA)
Team News: Connacht take on Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground on Friday night and head coach Eric Elwood has named a side that sees Johnny O’Connor start in the number 7 jersey one last time.
O’Connor will retire from rugby after the round 22 fixture against Glasgow, which is his 146th senior appearance for the province.
The 33-year-old flanker represents the only personnel change to the forwards from the team which drew with Benetton Treviso last weekend. He is joined in the back row by Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon, who moves to number 8.
Friday night also marks the last outing in a green jersey for lock Mike McCarthy. The 31-year-old will complete his Connacht career with a total of 154 senior caps.
On his return from injury, the 22-year-old Eoin Griffin is named at outside centre for the last game of the 2012/13 season. This change sees the westerners’ top try scorer this season, Danie Poolman, move on to the right wing.
On the bench, Adrian Flavin is named as replacement hooker and is in line to make his 142nd and final appearance for Connacht – his team for the last seven years.
Connacht currently occupy eighth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and while a win over the Scottish side would equal the best ever finish achieved last year, it would also mean a record number of league victories to go with a best away record so far.
It is all happening at the Sportsground on Friday as Connacht also celebrate Eric Elwood’s last ever game as head coach. To find out more on the activities planned, click here.
Tickets are selling fast so do not miss out on this special event and come up to the Sportsground to bid farewell to Eric and the departing players. Tickets are available from the Connacht Rugby offices and Ticketmaster.ie.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors boss Gregor Townsend has made nine personnel changes to the team that beat the Ospreys 35-17 at Scotstoun Stadium last month.
There are also two positional switches to the side that secured Glasgow’s play-off place against the defending champions, with only Sean Lamont, Pat MacArthur, Moray Low, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley and John Barclay retained in the starting line-up
British & Irish Lions pair Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland drop to the bench, along with Glasgow’s player of the season Niko Matawalu, Ryan Grant and Josh Strauss.
Peter Murchie comes in at full-back in place of Hogg, Tommy Seymour replaces Maitland on the right wing and the club’s joint all-time top try scorer DTH van der Merwe comes in on the opposite side, with Sean Lamont moving to outside centre in place of Alex Dunbar.
Peter Horne replaces Graeme Morrison at inside centre, Ruaridh Jackson comes in for the injured Duncan Weir at out-half and Henry Pyrgos replaces Matawalu at scrum half.
In the pack Moray Low moves from tighthead to loosehead prop in place of Grant, with Jon Welsh coming in at tighthead and Pat MacArthur continuing at hooker.
Club captain Al Kellock drops out of the squad for the trip to Ireland as his wife has just given birth, so Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder combine in the second row.
Ryan Wilson is given the captaincy and comes in at number 8, with Rob Harley continuing at blindside flanker and John Barclay keeping his place at openside.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Brian Murphy, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, JP Cooney, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon, Mata Fifita, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Sean Lamont, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Ruaridh Jackson, Henry Pyrgos; Moray Low, Pat MacArthur, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson (capt).
Replacements: Doug Hall, Ryan Grant, Ed Kalman, James Eddie, Josh Strauss, Niko Matawalu, Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, John Carvill (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 15/8; Draw: 22/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 2/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We know Friday evening is going to be emotional for a lot of people – not just me, but for players like Mike McCarthy, Adrian Flavin and Johnny O’Connor – but at the end of the day there are four points for the team that wins and we want those points so we can all celebrate,” he told the Galway Advertiser.
“I am just happy to be finishing at home in front of our own fans. Glasgow are a tough prospect, they are in the top four and they are a quality outfit.
“They have lost none of their traditional aggression at the breakdown, but have also added to their attacking play this season.
“We have the chance to build on the good results of the past two seasons and we still have an opportunity to get our highest number of wins, meet our targets and to finish on a high for our ourselves and our supporters.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “We were delighted with our performance against the Ospreys which secured our play-off spot, but we know we’ll face a big challenge on Friday at a ground we’ve not won at since 2007.
“Connacht are enjoying a great run of form at the moment, having lost just twice in their last seven games, so it will be an extremely tough game for us, but one we’re all looking forward to.
“With a couple of players out injured, it is an opportunity for others to stake a claim to be selected for our semi-final. It’s a new half-back and midfield combination and we expect a high work-rate and accuracy from them.
“I am also looking forward to seeing Tommy Seymour and Peter Murchie back in a Warriors jersey. They both performed well the last time we played in Ireland in our narrow defeat to Leinster, and have trained very well the past two weeks.
“It’s an exciting time for the club with the selection of two Lions and our play-off place secured, but our focus is all about meeting the challenge of Connacht and delivering a top performance.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 137; Tries: Danie Poolman 5; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 76; Tries: DTH van der Merwe 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 23, 2009 – Glasgow Warriors 34 Connacht 20, Firhill Stadium
Friday, March 5, 2010 – Connacht 19 Glasgow Warriors 19, the Sportsground
Friday, September 17, 2010 – Glasgow Warriors 17 Connacht 19, Firhill Stadium
Friday, February 18, 2011 – Connacht 37 Glasgow Warriors 8, the Sportsground
Saturday, February 18, 2012 – Connacht 13 Glasgow Warriors 13, the Sportsground
Friday, September 21, 2012 – Glasgow Warriors 27 Connacht 17, Scotstoun Stadium
– Connacht currently occupy eighth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and are aiming to equal their best ever finish which they achieved last year
– The westerners have won just one of their last four games, while their 23-24 loss to Edinburgh at the Sportsground in December ended a six-match unbeaten run against Scottish opponents in Galway
– Glasgow Warriors have already qualified for the play-offs, but will probably need to win to give themselves any chance of gaining home advantage in the semi-finals
– The Warriors’ last six fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day, and they have not tasted victory on the road since beating the Newport Gwent Dragons 60-3 at Rodney Parade in February
– Glasgow’s only win in Ireland since 2009 came against Leinster at the RDS in September 2011
– The Warriors are unbeaten in their last three contests with Connacht, while they have not been victorious at the Sportsground since April 2007