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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Ospreys

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Connacht v Ospreys

Having leaked some costly penalties in last weekend’s defeat to the Scarlets, Connacht will have to be disciplined throughout when they meet another of the Welsh regions, the Ospreys, in Galway tonight.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, February 15

CONNACHT (10th) v OSPREYS (4th), the Sportsground, 7.45pm (live TG4)

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Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team to face the Ospreys in Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at the Sportsground.

The westerners welcome the defending champions, the Ospreys, to Galway and Elwood has made just three personnel changes to the starting line-up

Robbie Henshaw, who earned his first Ireland Under-20 cap last Friday, returns to full-back. The 19-year-old was instrumental in Ireland’s dramatic one-point Six Nations victory over England in his home town of Athlone.

Tiernan O’Halloran, who covered the full-back position for Connacht in Llanelli, now returns to the right wing. Try scorer Danie Poolman replaces Fetu’u Vainikolo on the left wing, completing the youthful and fleet-footed back-three.

A strong performance in Wales in his first game back from injury sees Kyle Tonetti retain the number 12 shirt. He links up with Eoin Griffin again in the centre.

Meanwhile, the front five in the pack remains unchanged with prop Nathan While captaining the side against the Welsh region.

Recent returnees John Muldoon and Willie Faloon were introduced as replacements against the Scarlets last Friday night. This week, they both start in the back row, replacing Andrew Browne and Johnny O’Connor respectively.

Gavin Duffy, the province’s regular captain, is named among the replacements and will make his 150th appearance for Connacht if he is sprung from the bench.

Meanwhile, centre Tom Isaacs will make his 50th appearance for the Ospreys when they face a second Irish province in the space of a week.

Steve Tandy’s men turned over league leaders Ulster last time out. They have made two changes up front, the first of which sees Ryan Bevington, their try scorer in Belfast, making way for Duncan Jones at loosehead prop.

Alun Wyn Jones, who will captain the Ospreys in Galway, is set for his first start since damaging his shoulder in November.

He returns in the second row alongside fellow Wales RBS 6 Nations squad member James King with Lloyd Peers dropping to the replacements bench.

CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Tonetti, Danie Poolman; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (capt), Michael Swift, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Gavin Duffy.

OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Tom Habberfield, Tom Isaacs, Jonathan Spratt, Ben John; Matthew Morgan, Kahn Fotuali’i; Duncan Jones, Scott Baldwin, Cai Griffiths, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), James King, Joe Bearman, Sam Lewis, Morgan Allen.

Replacements: Matthew Dwyer, Marc Thomas, Dmitri Arhip, Lloyd Peers, Jonathan Thomas, Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, Rhys Webb, Ross Jones.

Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Will O’Connor (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 13/10; Draw: 20/1; Ospreys to win: 8/13

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We have spoken about it (discipline) this week, and it’s about self control as an individual. It’s been a strong learning curve for us, but it’s costing us points and we need to change otherwise we will get the same results and no points,” he told the Galway Advertiser.

“We went at it toe-to-toe at training this week and hoping we can give that same physicality and intensity to our game on Friday which now we have to do.

“We know we let points go at the weekend (against the Scarlets), so we need a win. We need a win to challenge for our target of getting so many points for the rest of the season. The only way to beat the Ospreys is to meet them physically, win the breakdown.

“We have taken a serious look at ourselves because it was our indiscipline, our petulance and not doing the right thing that is costing us. We spoke about it at half-time (in Llanelli) and only gave away three penalties in the second half, but the damage was done.

“They had a guy who with a great boot – the only one missed was on the halfway line on the stroke of half-time, so really he got six kickable penalties, and against a quality kicker you are gifting them 18 points. We just made things hard for ourselves.”

Steve Tandy (Ospreys) – “It’s really important that we back up last Friday’s win in Ulster with some good performances over the next couple of weeks.

“We need to make sure we show the same attitude, commitment and application against Connacht, Edinburgh and Munster, and if we do that, we should get our rewards.

“We’ve got no room for error in the end of season run-in. Three defeats in our first three games mean that we have had to play catch-up, and with more away games than home games remaining, it makes it doubly difficult.

We are used to facing challenges though and this group has real character, so we are looking forward to the tests that we’ve got coming up.

“We know that it’s going to be a difficult evening in Galway where the conditions will play a big part like they always do, and we know that we have to be thoroughly professional.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 70; Tries: Danie Poolman 4; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 103; Tries: Richard Fussell 3


Sunday, February 21, 2010 – Ospreys 19 Connacht 17, Liberty Stadium
Friday, November 19, 2010 – Connacht 15 Ospreys 16, the Sportsground
Sunday, February 27, 2011 – Ospreys 33 Connacht 18, Liberty Stadium
Friday, September 30, 2011 – Ospreys 26 Connacht 21, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, November 26, 2011 – Connacht 6 Ospreys 17, the Sportsground
Saturday, October 27, 2012 – Ospreys 26 Connacht 9, Liberty Stadium


– Connacht’s last five matches have all been won by the home side on the day. The westerners have won two of their last four games in all competitions

– Connacht’s last three victories over a Welsh region have all been against the Dragons. The Ospreys have won their last five RaboDirect PRO12 contests since losing 23-13 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on November 23

– The Ospreys’ only two defeats by an Irish province since May 2011 have both been at the hands of Munster

– The Ospreys have won their last nine encounters with Connacht since the province were 24-20 victors at the Sportsground in May 2008