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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Connacht

Connacht resume their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign with a trip to a Dragons side that are currently second-from-bottom in the table. An away win would see Eric Elwood’s men move above the Blues into seventh place.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, November 23

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (11th) v CONNACHT (8th), Rodney Parade, 7pm

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Team News: The Connacht team to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in Friday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Rodney Parade has been named.

There are just three changes to the team that beat Benetton Treviso 18-3 in in the last round of league matches.

Team captain Gavin Duffy makes a welcome return to the Connacht starting line-up this week, lining out on the left wing.

The Mayo man, who was unavailable for a number of weeks due to a hamstring injury, came on as a replacement against Treviso and touched down for a try just moments after being introduced.

There are no further changes to the province’s back-line. Danie Poolman, in his third outing for the westerners, joins David McSharry in the centre and Tiernan O’Halloran is named on the right wing.

Meanwhile, up front there are two changes to the pack with Michael Kearney replacing Mike McCarthy who remains on international duty this week.

Kearney is joined in the second row by Michael Swift, who will be making his 229th senior appearance for the Connacht men.

On the bench, hooker Ethienne Reynecke is named among the front row replacements following his return to training this week.

Flying winger Matt Healy was set to earn first cap for the province in Newport, but a hamstring injury has forced the 23-year-old Lansdowne clubman to drop out of the matchday squad.

Darragh Leader, 19, will take his place on the bench instead. He made his first competitive start for the province last month as full-back against defending champions, the Ospreys.

Meanwhile, team captain and influential flanker Lewis Evans returns to the Dragons starting line-up along with prop Phil Price.

Youngsters Jack Dixon and Ieuan Jones retain their places on the Welsh region’s bench after showing impressive form during the LV= Cup competition.

The men of Gwent are hoping to build on their encouraging display in last weekend’s LV= Cup clash with Northampton Saints, which they lost 30-20.

The Dragons’ current injury list includes former Ulster back Jamie Smith (ankle) as well as Dan Lydiate (ankle), Adam Hughes (hip) and Andrew Coombs (groin).

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Tom Prydie; Will Harries, Pat Leach, Ashley Smith, Tonderai Chavhanga; Dan Evans, Wayne Evans; Phil Price, Hugh Gustafson, Dan Way, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Lewis Evans (capt), Nic Cudd, Tom Brown.

Replacements: Steve Jones, Owen Evans, Nathan Buck, Ian Nimmo, Ieuan Jones, Jonathan Evans, Lewis Robling, Jack Dixon.

CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Danie Poolman, David McSharry, Gavin Duffy (capt); Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, David Gannon, Johnny O’Connor, David Moore, Miah Nikora, Darragh Leader.

Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: James Jones, Kevin Shorte (both Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 4/9; Draw: 18/1; Connacht to win: 21/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Lewis Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “There were so many positives from that performance (against Northampton). We really challenged them and made them work for every point rather than being a flimsy side, which perhaps we have been in recent weeks.

“We scored more tries than them but can’t ignore that we had a tough time in the scrum and that our discpline was poor.

“It was a tough day at the office, particularly for (tightheads) Dan Way and Nathan Buck but they are young props and are learning tough lessons.

“When Northampton brought on Brian Mujati he caused us plenty of problems, but we have addressed the issue in training and I am confident that hard work will show against Connacht.

“Connacht are relentless and have pushed some good sides hard this season. Signing Dan Parks gives them a real kicking threat and we know that if we are indisciplined, like we were last week, then we will be punished.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Tom Prydie 75; Tries: Dan Evans 4; Connacht – Points: Miah Nikora 32; Tries: George Naoupu, Tiernan O’Halloran 2 each


Saturday, October 3, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 23 Connacht 10, Rodney Parade
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – Connacht 16 Newport Gwent Dragons 3, the Sportsground
Saturday, September 4, 2010 – Connacht 40 Newport Gwent Dragons 17, the Sportsground
Thursday, January 6, 2011 – Newport Gwent Dragons 17 Connacht 16, Rodney Parade
Friday, September 23, 2011 – Connacht 17 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, the Sportsground
Friday, March 30, 2012 – Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Connacht 27, Rodney Parade


– The Newport Gwent Dragons have slipped to seven straight defeats in all competitions, which is their worst sequence of results since the region was formed in 2003

– The Dragons have not overcome an Irish province since beating Ulster 22-9 at Rodney Parade in the RaboDirect PRO12 in September 2011

– Connacht beat Benetton Treviso 18-3 in round 8 and are gunning for back-to-back PRO12 victories for the first time since April

– Connacht’s only away wins in 2012 in all competitions have come at Zebre (twice) and tonight’s opponents the Dragons at Rodney Parade in March

– Connacht achieved a season’s double over the men of Gwent during the 2011/12 league campaign