14th December 2012 13:09
Connacht’s young guns more than stood up to the task last Friday night in Galway. The question now is can they pull off a famous double over Biarritz Olympique and beat the former Heineken Cup runners-up away from home?
BIARRITZ OLYMPIQUE (3rd) v CONNACHT (2nd), Parc des Sports Aguilera, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2/HD2/Canal+/Galway Bay FM/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)
Team News: Connacht take on Basque outfit Biarritz Olympique in round 4 of the Heineken Cup, meeting them for the second time in the space of a week. Head coach Eric Elwood has named his side which shows only one change from the 22-14 victory last Friday in Galway.
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Former Ireland international Johnny O’Connor replaces the injured Willie Faloon in the Connacht back row where he is links up with Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon.
Faloon was ruled out of selection earlier this week due to a fractured eye socket he incurred during the sides’ first meeting at the Sportsground last Friday night.
Dan Parks will lead his side out once again – with Gavin Duffy and John Muldoon among the walking wounded – as Connacht look for an historic double over the French giants.
Out-half Parks is the Heineken Cup’s leading points scorer so far this season with 48 points, bringing his all-time total to 403 points.
The former Scotland international is two points short of reaching the half-century mark in the Heineken Cup for the fifth time in eight seasons.
Meanwhile, teenager Robbie Henshaw, who this week signed a full two-year contract with Connacht, will line out at full-back.
On the bench, forwards Nathan White (calf) and George Naoupu (foot) make a welcome return to the squad having both missed out on last weekend’s round 3 clash.
Commenting on the return fixture with Biarritz, assistant coach Dan McFarland said: “There was a very calm approach to last Friday’s game. Yes, it was a big occasion for the province but as a squad we just concentrated on the fact that we needed to win if we were to keep our hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals alive.
“We were thrilled to win but we can’t be happy with just that alone, the task now will be to go to Biarritz and back it up.
“It is great to see these young players coming through and delivering at Heineken Cup level. The key now is to move away from producing one huge performance and do it consistently and that starts in Biarritz on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Biarritz Olympique face into the second match of this double header with an interim coaching ticket in place.
Jack Isaac and Serge Milhas were dismissed from their coaching positions earlier this week, with Biarritz President Serge Blanco putting the club’s athletic director Laurent Rodriguez and training centre chief Mathieu Rourre in temporary charge.
The reigning Amlin Challenge Cup champions welcome back Damien Traille and Imanol Harinordoquy into their starting line-up for the visit of Connacht.
Harinordoquy scored a late consolation try in injury-time in Galway, and resumes at number 8 as the French club’s captain and pack leader.
There are three changes in the backs with Traille and Jean-Pascal Barraque forming the centre partnership in place of ineffective duo Charles Gimenez and Marcelo Bosch.
Former Leinster out-half Mat Berquist hands the number 10 jersey to Julien Peyrelongue, while up front Pelu Taele and Harinordoquy take over from Thibault Dubarry and Benoit Guyot respectively.
BIARRITZ OLYMPIQUE: Iain Balshaw; Takudzwa Ngwenya, Jean-Pascal Barraque, Damien Traille, Aled Brew; Julien Peyrelongue, Dimitri Yachvili; Fabien Barcella, Benoit August, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Erik Lund, Pelu Taele, Wenceslas Lauret, Raphael Lakafia, Imanol Harinordoquy (capt).
Replacements: Jean-Philippe Genevois, Lodewicus Blaauw, Thomas Synaeghel, Thibault Dubarry, Magnus Lund, Yann Lesgourgues, Seremaïa Burotu, Marcelo Bosch.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Danie Poolman, David McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks (capt), Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Ronan Loughney, Michael Kearney, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Denis Buckley, Nathan White, Daniel Qualter, George Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Matthew Jarvis.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Kelvin Shorte (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Biarritz Olympique to win: 1/12; Draw: 30/1; Connacht to win: 7/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “It was a special night (last Friday), a great result, and the manner in which we won was encouraging, but we are firmly keeping our feet on the ground because we are expecting a backlash from Biarritz.
“The key for us is we are going with a positive mentality to push on, and the challenge for us is to see if we can back it up in their garden.
“They came over here expecting to beat us and we turned them over, so they have the opportunity to turn us over in their patch.
“We always said if we got the win last weekend, it keeps us in the pool and to be in the pool you have to win home games. We are looking forward to this return fixture. We believe we can step it up again another level.
“Obviously there will be periods of the game we have to defend, but we did really well last week and they got only one line break, so we need good game management this week again.”
Current Form – Biarritz Olympique – (Top 14 Championship): Won 35-10 at home to Mont-de-Marsan; Won 25-19 away to Agen; Won 22-17 at home to Toulouse; Won 27-8 at home to Montpellier; Lost 28-13 away to Castres Olympique; Lost 13-12 away to Racing Metro 92; Lost 16-15 at home to Bayonne; Lost 36-9 at home to Toulon; (Heineken Cup): Lost 40-13 away to Harlequins; Won 38-17 at home to Zebre; (Top 14 Championship): Lost 19-12 away to Clermont Auvergne; Lost 34-21 away to Grenoble; Won 15-3 at home to Perpignan; Won 25-22 at home to Bordeaux-Begles;(Heineken Cup): Lost 22-14 away to Connacht
Connacht – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 13-9 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Won 30-17 away to Zebre; Lost 24-11 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 27-17 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 34-6 at home to Leinster; Lost 25-0 away to Ulster; (Heineken Cup): Won 19-10 away to Zebre; Lost 30-22 at home to Harlequins; (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 26-9 away to the Ospreys; Won 18-3 at home to Benetton Treviso; Lost 14-3 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 24-23 at home to Edinburgh; (Heineken Cup): Won 22-14 at home to Biarritz Olympique
Top Scorers – 2012/13 Heineken Cup: Biarritz Olympique – Points: Julien Peyrelongue, Arnaud Heguy, Yann Lesgourgues 10 each; Tries: Arnaud Heguy, Yann Lesgourgues 2 each; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 48; Tries: John Muldoon, David McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo 1 each
Previous European Meetings: 1
Friday, December 7, 2012 – Pool 3 – Connacht 22 Biarritz Olympique 14, the Sportsground
Match Facts And Figures –
– Connacht out-half Dan Parks is now the leading points scorer this season in the Heineken Cup with 48 points
– Biarritz have retained possession of the ball at 98% of the rucks and mauls they have contested this season, the best figure in the tournament
– In Biarritz’s last nine matches, they have followed a defeat with a victory. Should this run continue, they will turn Connacht over this weekend
– Connacht have won three of their last four Heineken Cup matches, after losing their first five straight in their debut season last year
Heineken Cup Records:
Biarritz Olympique –
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2010/11: Reached the quarter-finals
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2000/01: Reached the quarter-finals
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 6