Arms Park surface synthetic but Cardiff challenge all too real for Connacht
Blues have Lion Cuthbert back for tonight’s Pro12 clash
Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Kameli Ratuvou of Zebre during last week’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Sportsground. Henshaw plays at outside centre against Cardiff in Wales tonight. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
After the perfect start last weekend with a home win against Zebre, Pat Lam knows Cardiff truck up much bigger and meaner on home turf, or as it is tonight, plastic.
Tiernan O’Halloran, who came on from the bench last Saturday, starts on the right wing.
The pack remains unchanged, with Michael Swift captaining the side on what will be the team’s first outing on Cardiff’s newly installed artificial pitch. It’s also the first league match to take place on the synthetic surface.
Cardiff narrowly lost to a strong Glasgow team last week but they bring in British and Irish Lion Alex Cuthbert to the wing as well as Welsh forward Andries Pretorious.
The talismanic blindside, who made his international debut on tour to Japan, is named alongside Josh Navidi and Robin Copeland.
It is only French referee Claudio Blessano’s fourth competitive game, which could impact on the match.
Cardiff though are looking strong throughout the team and earning a losing bonus point to Glasgow illustrates just that. Glasgow are on most people’s list to be there at the end of the season.
Combined with the unfamiliar surface it will be a hard shift for Lam and his team. Connacht has beaten Cardiff in just three of their twenty previous meetings in the tournament. But one of those was in this equivalent fixture at the Arms Park in February.
CARDIFF BLUES: T Wiliams: A Cuthbert, O Williams, D Hewitt, H Robinson; R Pratchell, L Williams; T Filise, M Rees (capt), S Andrews, B Davies, F Paulo, A Pretorious, J Navidi, R Copeland. Replacements: K Dacey, S Hobbs, B Bourrust, L Reed, M Cook, L Jones, G Davies, G Evans.
CONNACHT: G Duffy; T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris_Wright, N White, M Swift, A Browne, J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu. Replacements: S Henry, R Ah You, R Loughney, A Muldowney, J Heenan, P O’Donohue, C Ronaldson, D Poolman.
Referee: Claudio Blessano (FIR)
Verdict: Home win.