Connacht know it’s time to start winning in Pro12 again

Pat Lam’s side can draw level on points with Scarlets with victory at Sportsground

 

Connacht v Scarlets, Sportsground, 3.0pm, Sky Sports

Connacht host top-of-the-table Scarlets at the Galway Sportsground today in what is arguably the Pro12 game of the weekend.

In this last of a testing run of 16 games, Connacht’s Pat Lam knows a win would put his side level on points with the visitors, but more importantly go a long way towards aiding their ambition of finishing in the top six.

Joe Schmidt has held onto prop Nathan White and scrumhalf Kieran Marmion, but crucially centre Robbie Henshaw gets a second competitive match under his belt ahead of the Six Nations after a two-month lay-off. Young prop Finlay Bealham has ben named in the starting line-up, while lock Ultan Dillane is on the bench.

Connacht take the momentum of their eight-try win over Challenge Cup opponents Enisei-STM into this fixture, but need to address their league form. They have only three points from four successive losses in the Pro12.

Connacht won this corresponding fixture last season14-8, but were denied a first win in Parc y Scarlets three weeks ago when two controversial TMO decisions and a give-away penalty in injury time proved costly. The Scarlets, along with Leinster, boast one of the best away records in the competition, despite having lost players to international duty – although fullback Liam Williams has been released for this fixture.

The Scarlets’ poor European form is no reflection of their Pro12 credentials, and Connacht and John Muldoon will need to be at their disciplined best with Swansea’s Ben Whitehouse in charge.

But with just one defeat at home this season, Connacht should prevail.

CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, G Naoupu, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (cpt), J Heenan, E Masterson. Replacements: D Heffernan, R Loughney, R Ah You, U Dillane, J Connolly, I Porter, C Ronaldson, R Parata.

SCARLETS: L Williams; T Williams, G Owen H Parks, DTH van der Merwe; A Thomas, R Williams; P John, E Elias, R Jones, T Price, L Rawlins, A Shingler, W Boyde, M Allen. Replacements: K Myhill, D Evans, P Edwards, J Jones, T Phillips, C Lloyd, S Shingler, M Collins.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

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