Marnitz Boshoff and Darragh Leader start for Connacht
‘Next two games present a great opportunity to prepare for the qualification playoffs’
Marnitz Boshoff is back at outhalf for Connacht on Saturday night. Photograph: Inpho
Pat Lam’s long goodbye to Galway probably concludes here.
Shame about this week’s disciplinary hearing. If Bundee Aki had not potentially derailed Connacht’s entire season - having earned a three match ban for abusing referee Ian Davies (who repeatedly warned both Aki and captain John Muldoon to put a lid on it) - then Lam’s charges would be far better positioned to retain their Champions Cup slot.
The non-competitive nature of the Pro 12 mid-table (see Edinburgh’s miserable resistance) means Connacht have already reached these European play-offs but they desperately need their talisman for the trip to France or England to face the club that finishes seventh in the Top 14 (currently Lyon) or Premiership (Harlequins).
Aki won’t be there. All because he couldn’t stop mouthing off.
“With Champions Cup being our main focus, the next two games present a great opportunity to prepare for the qualification playoffs in May,”said Lam before he leaves for relegated Bristol. “It allows us to give guys coming back from long-term injuries a chance to perform against a quality Scarlets side.”
With the Connacht players still unsure whether new coach Kieran Keane will land in time for preseason, we shall see if they have checked out already.
Scarlets need to cement their top four position - they lie third and that means Munster in Limerick - so they should blow them away with Lions centre Jonathan Davies expected to show why he can still keep the starting Ireland 13 out of a Lions squad.
They have two more Lions in Liam Williams and Ken Owens while former Leinster lock Tadhg Beirne has impressed all season in a heavyweight Llanelli pack.
SCARLETS: J McNicholl; L Williams, J Davies, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, J Evans; R Evans, K Owens (captain), S Lee, J Ball, T Beirne; A Shingler, W Boyde, J Barclay. Replacements; R Elias, W Jones, W Kruger, D Bulbring, J Macleod, G Davies, S Williams, D van der Merwe.
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Eoin Griffin, Cian Kelleher; Marnitz Boshoff, Caolin Blade; Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy; James Cannon, Andrew Browne (captain); Sean O’Brien, Jake Heenan, Eoghan Masterson
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, JP Cooney, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman
Referee: Mike Adamson
Verdict: Scarlets win
Connacht v Scarlets, Saturday April 29th, (kick-off 7.35pm, the Sportsground/Live on TG4).