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Connacht will start their new season this Saturday at 5pm against Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.

CONNACHT

BLUES

Starting XV:

Replacements:

Starting XV:

Replacements:

15 Gavin Duffy (C)

14 Tiernan O'Halloran

13 Eoin Griffin

12 Mata Fifita

11 Fetu'u Vainikolo

10 Miah Nikora

09 Kieran Marmion

01 Denis Buckley

02 Ethienne Reynecke

03 Ronan Loughney

04 Michael Swift

05 Mike McCarthy

06 John Muldoon

07 Johnny O'Connor

08 George Naoupu

16 Adrian Flavin

17 Rodney Ah You

18 Finlay Bealham

19 Dave Gannon

20 Willie Faloon

21 David Moore

22 Matthew Jarvis

23 Robbie Henshaw

15 Dan Fish
14 Harry Robinson
13 Gavin Evans
12 Gareth Davies
11 Tom James
10 Ceri Sweeney
09 Lewis Jones
08 Andries Pretorius (c)
07 Josh Navidi
06 Rory Watts- Jones
05 James Down
04 Robin Copeland
03 Taufa’ao Filise
02 Andi Kyriacou
01 Thomas Davies

16 Rhys Williams
17 Beniot Borrust
18 Nathan Trevett
19 Lou Reed
20 Luke Hamilton
21 Tito Tebaldi
22 Lloyd Williams
23 Tom Williams

24 Owen Williams


 

A crowd of 3996 watched Connacht lose this corresponding match last season 20 – 26. Having leading at half time 17 – 6 (after tries from O’Halloran and Flavin) all this good work was undone with 2 tries inside 4 minutes, first from Cuthbert and then Laulala both converted by Dan Parks. This season though Dan Parks has abandoned the Blue for the Green!

Cardiff finished one place above Connacht last season in seventh but the gap was a massive 13 points. If Connacht are to continue to climb up the table this is a match they need to be targeting. The trouble with that kind battle cry is that we have only beaten them twice in 18 meetings (one draw).

The Blues have a formidable backline when at full strength, including seasoned internationals like Halfpenny, Cuthbert and the wreaking ball that is Jamie Roberts. However for this match the Blues are forced to play a team of relative unknowns, through injury and summer-time sales. The backline are still dangerous though, with Fish, Evans and Davies no strangers to the rigors of Pro12. Allied with Ceri Sweeney at out-half the backline is still threatening. Andi Kyriacou will start his first Blues match since moving away from Ulster.

Connacht have been hit by a fiew injuries themselves but their team is a lot more settled looking that this Blues side, and they should have a positive mindset approaching this match. Their confidence will need to be temepered though, as the Blues will not respect a team that have never finished above them in the Celtic League. Connacht will need to hit the ground running to get a result.

Our pack is a familiar sight, with the loosies and the 2nd row, as close to a starting pick as any other. In the front row Loughs is starting his first game after a break-through season and will be looking to start this season in the same vein. On the other side of the coal-face young Denis Buckley is starting, a forced change from the usual Brett Wilkinson (IRFU player management). Buckley impressed a lot of fans last year, when the 21 year old held his own at the highest level in European club rugby, and was only let down by running out of puff about the 60 minute mark.

The biggest surprise of the night comes in at number 9. Kieran Marmion has been an Irish under-age player for a couple of years now, and the scrum-half is handed his first Connacht cap ahead of Dave Moore. Those who watched him at the U-20 World Cup will have been impressed with his clever play, having made a couple of cutting breaks during the tournament.

Outside him Nikora starts with Parks not even on the bench (Jarvis offers cover), with a new inside center, Mata Fifita, outside him. From 13 to 15 we have all familiar faces, with Griffen, Vainikolo, O'Halloran and Duffy making up a backline that will do damage if given space. Let's hope for some space.

On the bench for Connacht Rodney Ah'You has been scoring tries for fun recently and hopefully will get off the bench and do the same tomorrow. Also on the bench is Robbie Henshaw a young center who scored against Quins in the pre-season friendly. We can probably expect to Faloon on the pitch at some stage as well.

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