Gavin Duffy to return for Connacht against Cardiff
Former captain named at full-back as Tiernan O’Halloran comes in on the wing
Connacht’s Gavin Duffy will start against Cardiff on Friday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
The experienced Duffy will make his first competitive appearance of the season at fullback in the Arms Park, a move that will see Robbie Henshaw shift to outside centre, with Danie Poolman the one to miss out.
O’Halloran inclusion on the right wing means no place for Fionn Carr in the side or on the bench.
Captain Michael Swift is named in an unchanged pack, while John Muldoon will make his 200th appearance for the province.
The game will take place on Cardiff’s new artificial surface at the Arms Park and the home fans will see backrow Andries Pretorius and scrumhalf Lloyd Williams make their 50th appearances for the region.
Pretorius’s return is one of three changes from the side that lost to Glasgow last weekend, the most notable of which is the return of Lions star Alex Cuthbert on the wing. Dafydd Hewitt is called up to play at inside centre.
“We are coming up against a very good team in Connacht and they have brought in some very talented players during the summer,” director of rugby Phil Davies said today. “Craig Clarke, the former Waikato Chiefs captain, is a fantastic player and someone we’ve been aware of. He will galvanise the team.
“Pat Lam has taken over the coaching, so I think there will be a slightly different emphasis in terms of the style of rugby they adopt. It will be a big challenge and we’ve got to perform well.
He added: “Our ambition this season will be to put on a spectacle every time we play at the Arms Park and use the new surface to our advantage. We are trying to play an expansive style of rugby, but we also know we need to be effective with all facets of our game.
“What we must do is develop an all-round game that suits each and every occasion that we face. No matter what surface you play on, it’s about having that balance in your game and being to execute it.”
Cardiff Blues (v Connacht): T Williams; A Cuthbert, O Williams, D Hewitt, H Robinson; R Patchell, L Williams; T Filise, M Rees (captain), S Andrews; B Davies, F Paulo; A Pretorius, J Navidi, R Copeland. Replacements: K Dacey, S Hobbs, B Bourrust, L Reed, M Cook, L Jones, G Davies, G Evans
Connacht (v Cardiff Blues): G Duffy; T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift (captain), A Browne; J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu. Replacements: S Henry, R Ah You, R Loughney, A Muldowney, J Heenan, P O’Donohoe, C Ronaldson, D Poolman