Preview: Connacht v Aironi

Date published: April 20 2012

Denis Buckley returns to the Connacht front row for Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Aironi at the Sportsground.

Denis Buckley returns to the Connacht front-row for Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Aironi at the Sportsground.

The only change to last week's starting side sees Buckley replace the injured Brett Wilkinson, who picked up a calf strain in last week's victory over Ulster and will now face a race against time to be fit for Ireland's June tour to New Zealand.

Recent victories over the Dragons and Ulster have left Eric Elwood's side well placed to climb the PRO12 table and with just two points separating Connacht from the Dragons and Treviso a best ever eighth-place finish is certainly within reach.

“We're looking for a strong performance and to finish the season on a high,” said Head Coach Eric Elwood.

“We've had some excellent results in recent weeks and we hope to build on that and finish on an up. It'll be a big day for the likes of Ray (Ofisa) and Henry (Fa'afili) playing in front of the home crowd for the last time so it would be great to give them the send off they deserve and finish with a win.”

Meanwhile, Aironi fly to Galway for their last away match with just one change to their starting XV. Giovanbattista Venditti is back on the wing, with Sinoti Sinoti switching to outside centre in place of Gilberto Pavan, who starts from the bench.

On the bench, Paolo Buso returns from a long injury break.

Form: Connacht have won their last two fixtures in the RaboDirect PRO12, whilst the last time they bagged three successive wins in the tournament in the same season was way back in 2002/03. Connacht's solo defeat in their last five home games was 16-20 to Munster on 24 March. Aironi Rugby have won just one encounter since early January: 21-17 at home to Munster on 11 March. This game will be Aironi's final opportunity to win their first ever away game! The three previous clashes between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (c), 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Kyle Tonetti, 12 Henry Fa'afili, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin. 17 Stewart Maguire. 18 Rodney Ah You. 19 Mick Kearney. 20 Johnny O'Connor. 21 Paul O'Donohoe. 22 Matthew Jarvis. 23 Eoin Griffin.

Aironi: 15 Tito Tebaldi, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Sinoti Sinoti, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Nicola Cattina; 5 Marco Bortolami (cap), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys; 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Gilberto Pavan, 23 Paolo Buso.

Date: Saturday, April 21
Venue: Sportsground
Kick-off: 17.00 BST (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies