independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Elwood wants Connacht to show Ospreys their mettle at breakdown

ERIC ELWOOD has challenged his players to react positively to last weekend's loss to Scarlets by fronting up to the Ospreys at the Sportsground tonight (7.45).

Elwood admitted to being frustrated by the way his players lost the physical battle against the Scarlets, while acknowledging that the physical challenge is likely to be even greater tonight, given the step up in quality of opposition.

"Ospreys are a quality side and will be looking to give some of their internationals game time, which will make it more difficult for us obviously," said Elwood.

"At the same time we have to focus on ourselves. Our discipline was poor against Scarlets and we have to improve there. And we have to be more physical and compete better at the breakdown."

Ospreys, as was anticipated, have named captain Alyn Wyn Jones in their second-row. The Wales management are obviously keen for the towering lock to get some game time before they resume their Six Nations campaign and how Connacht deal with his presence will be decisive.

Bolstered

Connacht are also bolstered this weekend, however, not least by the return of 19-year-old full-back Robbie Henshaw.

Henshaw was released to the Ireland U-20 side for their win over England last weekend and is unsurprisingly parachuted back into the team. Tiernan O'Halloran, who covered the full-back position last week, switches to his usual right-wing slot and try-scorer Danie Poolman replaces Fetu'u Vainikolo on the left wing, completing the youthful and pacey back three.

A strong performance in Wales on his first game back from injury sees Kyle Tonetti retain the No 12 shirt. He joins up with Eoin Griffin again in the centre.

Connacht have won just four Pro12 games this season and are third from bottom in the table. Their season has, however, been a mixed bag. They experienced the high of defeating Biarritz in the Heineken Cup. And they suffered the disappointment of failing to register any points in three outings.

"Of course Ospreys are going to be on cloud nine after inflicting a first league home defeat on Ulster. We have to be ready for that challenge," said Elwood.

"You target your home games and we are craving a home win this weekend. We need it and hopefully we'll deliver."

VERDICT: Ospreys

CONNACHT – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, E Griffin, K Tonetti, D Poolman; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift, M Kearney; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements: E Reynecke, R Ah You, R Loughney, A Browne, J O'Connor, P O'Donohoe, M Nikora, G Duffy.

OSPREYS – R Fussell; T Habberfield, T Isaacs, J Spratt, B John; M Morgan, K Fotuali'I; D Jones, S Baldwin, C Griffiths; AW Jones, J King; J Bearman, S Lewis, M Allen. Replacements: M Dwyer, M Thomas, D Arhip, L Peers, J Thomas, A Ellis/S Davies, R Webb, R Jones.

Connacht v Ospreys,

Live, TG4, 7.45

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