Former coaching colleagues Eric Elwood and Michael Bradley will cross swords at the home of Scottish rugby tonight as Connacht try to make it three league wins on the trot.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 16
EDINBURGH (10th) v CONNACHT (5th), Murrayfield, 7.30pm (live Galway Bay FM)
Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has revealed his team and replacements for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Edinburgh.
With just two changes to the starting line-up and one on the bench, the Connacht squad remains largely similar to that which has won the first two games of the league campaign.
Recent signing Ethienne Reynecke starts at hooker with Adrian Flavin moving to the bench, and Johnny O’Connor replaces Ray Ofisa at openside flanker.
Ofisa will take the place of Thomas Anderson on the bench, while Dylan Rogers replaces Stewart Maguire as the reserve tighthead prop.
Michael ‘Swifty’ Swift will become the first Connacht player to reach 200 caps this weekend. The 6ft 5in, 119kg second row joined Connacht in 2000.
He holds the record number of caps in the Amlin Challenge Cup (62) and is just five matches short of the Cardiff Blues’ Deiniol Jones (135), who is the league’s record caps holder.
Connacht head to Murrayfield having never beaten Edinburgh there and head coach Eric Elwood knows the challenge that awaits them.
Looking forward to taking on former Connacht boss Michael Bradley, who is the new Edinburgh coach this season, Elwood said: “‘Brads’ knows the lads inside out as he knows me and he knows what we are capable of.
“He knows our weaknesses and I think he might have a couple of surprises up his sleeves, but we would like to think we might have a couple of our own.
“They will be under pressure, but we’ve never won in Murrayfield and we are going there to try and rectify that.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Michael Bradley, who spent seven years in charge of Connacht, has made four changes in personnel to the side that lost 26-19 to the Ospreys.
Versatile captain Greig Laidlaw moves to the out-half slot he operated in so successfully at the end of last season. he will form a new half-back partnership with Chris Leck, who is set for his first competitive start for the club.
Lee Jones lines up on the right wing in place of the injured Simon Webster (hamstring), while prop Jack Gilding and lock Steven Turnbull come into the starting pack.
Young back rower Stuart McInally has recovered from a foot injury and adds to Bradley’s options on the replacements bench.
EDINBURGH: Tom Brown; Lee Jones, Jim Thompson, James King, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw (capt), Chris Leck; Kyle Traynor, Steve Lawrie, Jack Gilding, Grant Gilchrist, Steven Turnbull, Sean Cox, Roddy Grant, David Denton.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Robin Hislop, Shaun Knight, Esteban Lozada, Stuart McInally, Alex Black, Gregor Hunter, Matt Scott.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt), Mark McCrea, Eoin Griffin, Henry Fa’afili, Tiernan O’Halloran; Matthew Jarvis, Frank Murphy; Ronan Loughney, Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brett Wilkinson, Dylan Rogers, David Gannon, Ray Ofisa, Paul O’Donohoe, Niall O’Connor, Brian Tuohy.
Referee: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Assistant Referees: James Matthew, Alan Forrest (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 4/9; Draw: 20/1; Connacht to win: 7/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “The key for us is to get amongst Edinburgh at the breakdown because they compete very well there, and certainly when we have the ball we will need to hold onto it.
“The style they play means we must improve defensively from last week, because if you give Edinburgh time and space, they will punish you.
“(Last Saturday) was a big day for Connacht Rugby. We knew we were under pressure because it was a big occasion with the opening of the new terrace – there was a lot at stake.
“Maybe the pressure got to us. We lacked a bit of fluency in defence, we slipped off tackles, and didn’t play with the usual buzz.
“But at half-time we were still in the game, and thankfully key personnel got their hands on the ball, started to carry and give us go forward ball, and once we got field position, thankfully we got the penalty (to win the game).”
Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “The boys stayed in the Ospreys match for the full 80 minutes which was important for us as it was something we targeted going in to the match. We now have to maintain that in all our games this season.
“Our scramble defence and general effort on the day was a huge improvement and we got ourselves into a position to win the game but unfortunately didn’t take it. We now need to a repeat that commitment and hunger and take any opportunities to win this game.
“It’s very important that we get a ‘W’ on the board on Friday. I know Connacht very well and I’ve been getting plenty of communication from them on the fact that they’re looking down on us in the table.
“Connacht are always difficult when they have confidence and, rightly so at this point in the season, they should be very confident coming here for this game.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 29; Tries: Tim Visser 1; Connacht – Points: Matthew Jarvis 11; Tries: Rodney Ah You, Mark McCrea 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 24, 2008 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 27, the Sportsground
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
– Edinburgh’s home defeat to the Cardiff Blues in round 1 of the RaboDirect PRO12 ended a three-match winning run for them at Murrayfield
– Edinburgh have lost their last three matches in the competition, however the Scottish side have won their last three home matches against Irish opponents
– Another victory would emulate the best ever start to a season for Connacht, when they went on to win their opening five matches of the 2002/03 campaign
– Connacht’s only triumph in their last ten visits to Scotland since 2006 was a 19-17 win at Glasgow in September 2010
– The last five clashes between these two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, while Connacht’s only previous victory at Murrayfield came on their maiden visit in March 2005