Connacht keen to back up last week's showing on tough Cardiff mission
There is a familiar refrain in sport about “backing up” an excellent performance with another, something Connacht coach Eric Elwood will be stressing to his players after last week’s superb 22-10 victory over the Ospreys in Galway.
Tiernan O’Halloran (knee), Dave McSharry (groin) and Kyle Tonetti (shoulder) are all injured, while Robbie Henshaw has remained with the Ireland squad.
Gavin Duffy, who reached a milestone 150 appearances for Connacht last weekend, starts at fullback, with Fetu’u Vainikolo coming in on the wing. The 27-year-old Galwegians and former Ireland underage international Brian Murphy is named alongside Eoin Griffin in the centre. Andrew Browne replaces Mick Kearney in the secondrow.
The Cardiff Blues, conquerors of Edinburgh at Murrayfield (17-16) last time out, hand international Chris Czekaj a first start of the season following a serious foot injury.
Director of rugby Phil Davies noted: “It was good to get the result up in Scotland last week. We played well and our defence was strong.
“We want to continue building on that and gather some momentum. I’m sure that Connacht will be a tough encounter for us. They are a good team; a very direct side who kick well and run hard. Our defence will have to be up to the mark and our back three I’m sure will have a busy night.
“Former Blues outhalf Dan Parks I’m sure will be a threat. He is a quality player and I know him well, being the first coach to bring him to the UK when I was coaching Leeds.
“He came over for eight games and did an excellent job. He was a great distributor and a running outhalf. He was always a good goal-kicker and his game has evolved a lot since he arrived.”
Robin Copeland has made quite an impression in Cardiff and the Irishman and number eight is a fine athlete, as Munster discovered to their cost.
Connacht’s scrum was excellent last week and they’ll look to continue in the same vein while bringing their direct, hard-running style. As a venue it hasn’t been a happy place for the Irish province, a state of affairs they’ll look to change.
CARDIFF: C Czekaj; O Williams, R Smith, G Evans (capt), H Robinson; R Patchell, L Jones; T Filise, K Dacey, B Borrust; M Cook, J Down; M Paterson, R Watts-Jones, R Copeland. Replacements: R Williams, N Trevett, S Andrews, L Hamilton, T Young, L Davies, C Sweeney, J Tovey.
CONNACHT: G Duffy (capt); D Poolman, E Griffin, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (capt); M Swift, A Browne; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, R Loughney, M Kearney, TJ Anderson, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, M Jarvis.