Bradley out to sting Glasgow minus their 'Killer Bs'
WITH the knowledge that their existence is once again very much in the balance, you would hope the Sportsground would be packed tonight for Connacht's Magners League clash with Glasgow.
It would be a statement of solidarity and also recognition of the elevation of Eric Elwood, the province's greatest rugby servant, to the position of head coach, albeit on a one-season basis.
Michael Bradley will obviously want to end his tenure on a positive note and dragging Connacht off the basement of the Magners table by season's end would certainly constitute that. They are seven points adrift of second-from-bottom Scarlets (with a game in hand) but, given Connacht's dire record on the road, these home ties are the matches to win in pursuit of a meaningful league statement.
And although Glasgow are enjoying an excellent season, with only the Ospreys looking down upon them, the Warriors are vulnerable this evening. Predictably, the Scots have been the heavier hit by international call-ups, the most significant being the absence of the 'Killer Bs' back row of Kelly Brown, John Beattie and John Barclay.
In the back line, they are missing half-backs Chris Cusiter and Dan Parks. Graeme Morrison and the Evans brothers are also on Scotland duty. It leaves them short on experience, although Ruaridh Jackson is a talented fill-in for Parks and a long-term bet for the Scottish No 10 jersey.
Connacht are without Niva Ta'auso, Liam Bibo, Andrew Browne and Ray Ofisa but can still name a strong side, with Johnny O'Connor looking for a big game at open side. Frank Murphy is back at scrum-half, where he forms a proven half-back partnership with Ian Keatley, while Fionn Carr is the try-scoring threat out wide.
Connacht impressed in going down narrowly away to the Ospreys last time out but must be wary of the threat posed by the superb scrummaging skills of Jon Welsh at loose-head for Glasgow. Jamie Hagan has progressed encouragingly since switching from Leinster, tonight will be good test of how far.
Connacht have not won in this competition since their last home game against the Scarlets in October but the last five games between these sides have been won by the home team and it could be that way again this evening, hopefully in front of a lusty attendance.
Live, setanta sports 1, 8.0
CONNACHT -- G Duffy; T Nathan, K Matthews, A Wynne, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan; M Swift, McCarthy; J Muldoon (capt), J O'Connor, G Naoupu. Reps: A Flavin, R Morris, B Upton, M McComish, Conor O'Loughlin, M Nikora, B Tuohy.
GLASGOW -- B Stortoni; C Shaw, P Murchie, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe; R Jackson, M McMillan (capt); J Welsh, D Hall, E Kalman; T Barker, D Turner; J Eddie, C Forrester, R Vernon. Reps: F Thomson, K Tkachuk, R Gray, C Fusaro, C Gregor, C Kinloch, H O'Hare.
REF -- J Jones