Monday 23 April 2018

Aussie Deegan could be key to unlocking the door to number ten

Locals will get their first glimpse of new out-half signing Andrew Deegan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Locals will get their first glimpse of new out-half signing Andrew Deegan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Connacht were hoping to find their level last week against Dragons; instead they slipped well below it, admittedly with a less than stellar line-up.

This afternoon will test their credentials as they seek to underline optimism of a swift return to the Champions Cup next season.

Locals will get their first glimpse of new out-half signing Andrew Deegan, the former Waratah who joined up with the province just a fortnight ago.

Partnering Deegan at half-back is Irish international Kieran Marmion, while Craig Ronaldson is back to form a centre partnership with Bundee Aki.

The pivot has remained a problem position, one masked somewhat during the all-court game that swept the province to the title two seasons ago under Pat Lam, and Kieran Keane will hope to have alighted upon a solution in the Aussie.

Also recalled by head coach Keane, to a much-strengthened side than that which meekly submitted in Gwent last week, are hooker Dave Heffernan, Irish international locks Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux, and back-rower Jarrad Butler.

Wales hooker Kristian Dacey returns as one of three Cardiff Blues changes, all in the front-row, with props Brad Thyer and Taufa'ao Filise stepping in as Rhys Gill, Matthew Rees and Keiron Assiratti make way.


Dacey was one of the infamous 'Geography Six' called up to the Lions over the summer.

Flanker Ollie Robinson, son of former England head coach and flanker Andy, is on the bench after signing on a short-term loan from Lam's Bristol.

"Cardiff had a good performance last weekend and they came very close to Glasgow," says Connacht assistant coach Jimmy Duffy, who will also be mindful of an encouraging week-two performance in Dublin where Cardiff performed well against Leinster for an hour.

"We are fully aware of the quality in their side and we give them the utmost respect. Every game we have played against Cardiff over the last few years has been in the balance.

"We are generally close to each other in the table and this year will be no different now that we are in the same conference."

Cardiff haven't won here in four years, are win-less this term, and are seeking their first away win since February.

Connacht also managed to do the double over them last season.

Verdict: Connacht

Connacht - D Leader; C Kelleher, B Aki, C Ronaldson, R Scholes; A Deegan, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham, U Dillane, Q Roux, E Masterson, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt). Reps - S Delahunt, D Coulson, C Carey, G Thornbury, E McKeon, C Blade, T Farrell, S Ili.

Cardiff Blues - R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams (capt); B Thyer, K Dacey, T Filise, S Davies, D Welch, J Turnbull, J Navidi, N Williams.

Reps - E Lewis, C Domachowski, K Assiratti, G Earle, O Robinson, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.

Ref - Marius Mitrea (Italy).

Connacht v Cardiff Blues, Sportsground, 3.15, Sky Sports

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