Tuesday 16 January 2018

Duffy return boosts Connacht hopes

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

CONNACHT welcome back captain Gavin Duffy for his first appearance of the season but the emergence of Robbie Henshaw has changed the landscape for the Ireland international, who relocates to the wing for the trip to Rodney Parade to play the Dragons.

Having beaten Treviso on their last outing, Eric Elwood will be hoping that their Welsh hosts' run of seven successive defeats continues tonight.

The Westerners are relatively unaffected by the internationals as only Mike McCarthy is on Test duty– former Ireland U-20 star Michael Kearney steps into his second-row shoes.

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion, who signed a senior contract this week on the back of his impressive displays this campaign, partners Dan Parks, who will look to unleash Dave McSharry and Danie Poolman in the centres.

Outside them, Duffy and Henshaw are joined by Tiernan O'Halloran.

In the pack, promising loosehead Denis Buckley joins Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White in the front-row, and Eoin McKeon gets a chance at No 8.

A win could lift Connacht into seventh position, and they will be disappointed not to leave Newport without the result.

Only Zebre are below the Welsh region in the table and they lost both meetings with Connacht last season. Toby Faletau is with the Welsh set-up for their meeting with the All Blacks, depriving them of much of their go-forward ball.

This is a test of how far Connacht have come. They have lost games like this before, but Elwood will be confident of delivering a rare away win.

Verdict: Connacht

DRAGONS – T Prydie; W Harries, P Leach, A Smith, T Chavhanga; D Evans, W Evans; P Price, H Gustafson, D Way; A Jones, R Sidoli; L Evans (capt), N Cudd, T Brown. Reps: S Jones, O Evans, N Buck, I Nimmo, I Jones, J Evans, L Robling, J Dickson.

CONNACHT – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, G Duffy (capt); D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift, M Kearney; A Browne, W Faloon, E McKeon. Reps: E Reynecke, R Ah You, R Loughney, D Gannon, J O'Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, M Healy.

Ref – G Vivarini (Italy).

Irish Independent

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