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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Glasgow Warriors v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Glasgow Warriors v Connacht

Connacht are back in action for the first time since their Heineken Cup hammering by Saracens, as they look to knuckle down and improve their position in the RaboDirect PRO12 standings.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, February 9

GLASGOW WARRIORS (5th) v CONNACHT (12th), Scotstoun Stadium, 2pm

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Team News: The Connacht team to face Glasgow Warriors in Sunday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at Scotstoun Stadium has been named. There are a number of changes to the side that lined out against Saracens three weeks ago.

Out-half Jack Carty has been handed his third start of the season by head coach Pat Lam – the 21-year-old will feature alongside scrum half Kieran Marmion who earned his first Ireland Wolfhounds cap in the victory over England Saxons during the break.

Craig Ronaldson returns from injury to partner the Galway-born Eoin Griffin in the centre, while Ireland international Robbie Henshaw has been released back to his province to start at full-back this week in place of the injured Gavin Duffy.

Fionn Carr starts on the right wing for his 100th league game, while Connacht’s joint-top try scorer of the season (with Marmion), Matt Healy, is named on the left.

Up front, Roscommon-born prop Denis Buckley earns his first start of the season in an all-new front row with Rodney Ah You and hooker Jason Harris-Wright.

Andrew Browne moves into the second row to partner Michael Kearney. John Muldoon will captain the side from the back row where he combines with Jake Heenan and George Naoupu.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors boss Gregor Townsend has handed first starts to wingers Lee Jones and Rory Hughes for Sunday’s league encounter with Connacht.

Jones arrived this week on loan until the end of the season, having been released to the club from Scotland Sevens duty in New Zealand.

The 21-year-old joined the club in the summer of 2013 as part of the elite development programme and has been in good form for Stirling County in the RBS Premiership.

After starting on the wing against Toulon in the Heineken Cup last month, Niko Matawalu moves to full-back.

Richie Vernon starts his first game at centre, since switching positions from the back row, and will partner Mark Bennett in midfield.

Ruaridh Jackson has been released from the Scotland squad and starts at out-half, with Henry Pyrgos wearing the number 9 jersey after signing a new one-year deal with the club this week.

Gordon Reid starts at loosehead prop with Ed Kalman on the tighthead side, while Pat MacArthur also comes back from Scotland duty and takes his place at hooker.

Leone Nakarawa and Tom Ryder are in the engine room, with Rob Harley at blindside flanker and Tyrone Holmes at openside. Josh Strauss returns to the side after missing the Toulon game through injury and will captain the team from number 8.

Former Warriors elite development scrum half Murray McConnell is named among the replacements, having been in great form for Ayr this season.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Niko Matawalu; Lee Jones, Richie Vernon, Mark Bennett, Rory Hughes; Ruaridh Jackson, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Pat MacArthur, Ed Kalman, Leone Nakarawa, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, Tyrone Holmes, Josh Strauss (capt).

Replacements: Dougie Hall, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Jon Welsh, James Eddie, Fraser Brown, Murray McConnell, Finn Russell, Scott Wight.

CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Fionn Carr, Eoin Griffin, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (capt), Jake Heenan, George Naoupu.

Replacements: David Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, JP Cooney, Michael Swift, Aly Muldowney, Paul O’Donohoe, Dan Parks, Darragh Leader.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Paterson, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 1/6; Draw: 22/1; Connacht to win: 7/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “It’s obviously a big disappointment for us losing Craig (Clarke), Nathan (White), Sean (Henry) and Brett (Wilkinson) – four of the frontliners from our forward pack.

“But we have full confidence in our squad and this is another opportunity for our younger forwards to step up, with a start this week.

“Having Robbie (Henshaw) back in the starting line-up is a bonus, especially with Gavin (Duffy) unavailable this week.

“The versatility of our young backs allows Robbie to move to full-back and Craig (Ronaldson) to slip into inside centre with Eoin (Griffin) moving outside him.

“Playing Glasgow is a huge test for us. They are a very direct side with one of the best defensive structures in the entire league. Connacht has never won at Scotstoun and this is something we want to change.”

Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “Connacht are an extremely tough side to play and it was a very close game when we played them in over in Galway in November, so we know we face a real challenge on Sunday.

“International call-ups and injuries during this period of games shows how important it is to put together a strong squad with real depth.

“Last season during the Six Nations our players stepped up and performed really well, so we expect those involved on Sunday to seize their opportunity.

“We were delighted to get Lee Jones in this week and he is a player who has impressed in the international set up and is a proven try scorer.

“He gets an early opportunity to play for the club and it’s a great chance for him to do what he does best in front of our home supporters.

“Rory Hughes has impressed all season in training and has come close to playing a few times. He’s worked hard on his game and performed well for Stirling County, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in a Warriors jersey.

“We’ve been keeping an eye on a number of young Scottish club players and Murray McConnell is one who has been working extremely hard and fully deserves to be involved this weekend.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 42; Tries: Byron McGuigan, DTH van der Merwe 2 each; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 68; Tries: Matt Healy, Fionn Carr 3 each


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
Friday, May 3, 2013 – Connacht 3 Glasgow Warriors 20, the Sportsground
Saturday, November 2, 2013 – Connacht 12 Glasgow Warriors 19, the Sportsground


– Glasgow Warriors’ last two fixtures at Scotstoun Stadium in the RaboDirect PRO12 have both fallen foul of the weather, while the Warriors have not won at the venue since a 20-16 victory over Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Cup on October 20

– Glasgow have won three of their last four home games against Irish provinces

– Connacht’s only win the PRO12 since round 1 was 14-11 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons in round 10

– Connacht’s most recent away victory in the league was 32-24 against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on April 12

– The Warriors have won their last four contests with Connacht, while the westerners’ only two victories on Glasgow soil came at Hughenden in September 2003 and Firhill in September 2010