Sport Rugby

Thursday 14 December 2017

Keatley eases injury worries for Elwood

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

CONNACHT'S injury worries eased significantly as Eric Elwood was able to name a largely unchanged side for the trip to the Stoop to face Harlequins tomorrow.

Ian Keatley has recovered sufficiently to start, but he's in midfield as opposed to his regular position at 10 alongside Keith Mathews, as Eoin Griffin and Niva Ta'auso continue to struggle with injury.

His introduction is the only change from the side that lost to Edinburgh last time out in the Magners League. Miah Nikora is at out-half where he goes head-to-head with Nick Evans as Conor O'Shea shuffles his pack after a disappointing 26-14 defeat to Saracens last weekend.

George Lowe moves into the centre to accommodate Gonzalo Camacho on the wing, with Jordan Turner-Hall dropping to the bench. Tom Williams, the man at the centre of the 'Bloodgate' controversy, features on the other wing.

The inspirational Nick Easter returns at No 8, with Tom Guest switching to the flank, but they'll have their hands full with an indigenous Connacht back-row of Andrew Browne, John Muldoon and Johnny O'Connor. O'Connor makes his 100th appearance for the province. New signing, prop Rodney Ah You, could make his first appearance.

Connacht got their campaign back on track after a shocking first-round loss away to minnows I Cavalieri Estra by beating Bayonne, but Quins top the Pool thanks to the bonus point they picked up against the Italians.

The Magners League has to be Connacht's priority as it offers the most likely route to Heineken Cup rugby, something that was outlined as a goal for the province at the announcement of their three-year plan last week.

But Elwood has picked what looks like his strongest available team and the province have a penchant for doing well in this competition, as witnessed by their semi-final appearance last season.

There are also a few 'personal' relationships involved on either side that means there's an extra edge to this one and that usually suits Connacht. They haven't been far away in recent Magners League clashes and it might fall into place for them in London.

Verdict: Connacht

Harlequins -- M Brown; G Camacho, G Lowe, T Casson, T Williams; N Evans, K Dickson; N Easter, C Robshaw, T Guest, T Vallejos, O Kohn, J Johnston, J Gray, J Marler. Reps: M Cairns, C Jones, M Lambert, P Browne, W Skinner, D Moore, R Clegg, J Turner-Hall.

Connacht -- G Duffy; B Tuohy, I Keatley, K Mathews, F Carr; M Nikora, F Murphy; J Muldoon, J O'Connor, A Browne, M McCarthy, M Swift, J Hagan, S Cronin, B Wilkinson. Reps: D Murphy, R Loughney, R Ah You, B Upton, M McComish, C Willis, A Wynne, T Nathan.

Ref -- P Gauzere (France).

Harlequins v Connacht,

Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 2, 5.45

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