Connacht may find Italian job too tough

Benetton Treviso have won their last five home matches in all competitions

Connacht’s Fetu’u Vainikolo runs with the ball. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Connacht’s Fetu’u Vainikolo runs with the ball. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho


Eric Elwood will take his Connacht team abroad for a final time before he steps down as coach at the end of the season.

The province’s final match is against the Glasgow Warriors in the Sportsground and while that’s going to be a highly emotional occasion for Elwood, players who are retiring or leaving the club and the supporters, the Connacht coach will be no less passionate in his advocacy this evening in Treviso.

Eoin Griffin misses out through injury, so Danie Poolman switches to the centre with the 24-year-old Lansdowne player Matt Healy coming in on the right wing.

Ethienne Reynecke is preferred to Adrian Flavin at hooker while Andrew Browne starts in the backrow alongside, George Naoupu and Eoin McKeon, the latter at openside flanker.

Treviso coach Franco Smith has made wholesale changes the most interesting of which sees him give a debut to rising star and Italian under-20 centre Michele Campagnaro.

Ludovico Nitoglia, South African Doppies La Grange, Luke McLean and Giulio Toniolatti are introduced to the backline. Up front Michele Rizzo and Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet will form the frontrow cornerstones while Roberto Barbieri returns to play his first match since March 1st.

The Italians have won their last five matches in all competitions at tonight’s venue and their current position of seventh in the table is a fair reflection of diligence with which they have applied themselves in the league.

Connacht have sandwiched an excellent away win over the hapless Edinburgh with two disappointing defeats to provincial rivals, Munster and Ulster. Consistency of performance continues to be an issue that incoming coach Pat Lam must address.

The Irish side played well for about 60 minutes in their home defeat to a strong Ulster team before simply running out of steam and coughing up too many errors when minds became as tired as legs.

Connacht just seem a little bit light when weighed against the players who are absent through injury. They won’t win an arm wrestle but at the same time they must avoid a tendency to play a little too laterally at times.

Dan Parks’s accuracy with the boot should elicit some return from any pressure they manage to apply but Treviso, at home and confident, should have a little bit too much grunt for the visitors.
BENETTON TREVISO: L McLean; L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, G La Grange, G Toniolatti; A Di Bernardo, E Gori; M Rizzo, L Ghiraldini (capt), I Fernandez-Rouyet; F Minto, V Berabo; S Favaro, A Zanni, R Barbieri. Replacements: G Maistri, A de Marchi, L Cittadini, A Pavanello, M Vosawi, M Filippucci, T Botes, L Morisi.
CONNACHT:G Duffy (capt); M Healy, D Poolman, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu. Replacements: A Flavin, R Ah You, JP Cooney, M Kearney, J Muldoon, P O’Donohue, M Nikora, T O’Halloran.
Referee: N Patterson (Scotland)