Preview: Connacht v Dragons

Date published: February 17 2017

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named his side to face Newport Gwent Dragons in Round 15 of the PRO12.

There are five personnel changes from the side that beat Cardiff Blues in Wales five days ago.

Irish internationals Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane all come in to start this week while centre Tom Farrell has been handed his full debut.

The 23-year-old, who joined from Bedford Blues last month and has made two appearances from the bench, partners Craig Ronaldson in midfield tomorrow night at the Sportsground.

Hooker Dave Heffernan, who continues his impressive run of featuring in every game so far this season, earns his seventh start in the number two shirt. From the bench, 23-year-old Steve Crosbie, who also joined the province last month, is in line to make his Connacht debut.

Commenting on the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said: "We're all really excited to be back playing at home for the first time in five weeks. By all accounts it will be a full house here again tomorrow and that always drives us on.

"We're very aware of where we are in this competition and what we need to do. Dragons will take confidence from their victory over us in Round 8 so it's really important that we are right on the money with our mental preparation and execution of the game plan.”

Meanwhile, Dragons have made three changes to the side that were defeated by table toppers Munster last weekend, in Cork. This includes full-back Tom Prydie, who returns to the back three and is joined by wings Adam Hughes and Pat Howard.

There are no changes to the centre partnership as Tyler Morgan partners Adam Warren again this weekend, with the half-backs Dorian Jones and Tavis Knoyle also remaining unchanged.

In the front row, 22-year-old hooker Elliot Dee returns to the starting XV and is joined by props Sam Hobbs and Brok Harris. The second row also includes one change as versatile forward Nick Crosswell joins lock Rynard Landman. The back row remains unchanged with flankers Ollie Griffiths and Nic Cudd being selected alongside skipper Lewis Evans.

Cory Hill has been released from the Welsh squad and has been named on the replacements bench for the match. He is joined by Darran Harris, Thomas Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, Harrison Keddie, Sarel Pretorius, Angus O'Brien and Sam Beard.

Looking ahead to the match on Saturday, Dragons centre Adam Warren said; "Last year Connacht were brilliant and turned a lot of heads. Nobody expected them to win the league. This season maybe they have forced things a bit in their game, but when they get it right they score some good tries.”

He continued; "It's a big game for us because they are only just above us in the table. We haven't been brilliant away but if we bring that attacking intent that we have at home I am confident we can do a job.

"Connacht is one of the places that teams don't enjoy going but for us, it would be a great ground to get that away win to change things round for us.

"If we do that we can climb the table and put pressure on teams like the Blues above us by finishing the season strongly.”

Form: Connacht's victory in Cardiff on Sunday ended a three game losing run in the PRO12, whilst the Irishmen’s only home loss in their last eight matches in all tournaments was to Munster in the PRO12 on New Year’s Eve. The Dragons have won only one of their last five PRO12 fixtures: 26-8 at home to Treviso in Rround 13. Dragons have not won away from home in the PRO12 since a visit to Treviso in March 2015. Dragons beat Connacht in Round 8 in Newport and have only once before achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Irishmen, in the inaugural home and away season of 2003/04 – the only previous time Dragons have won in Galway.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 JP Cooney, 19 James Cannon, 20 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Rory Parata

Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Ollie Griffiths, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Sam Hobbs
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Angus O'Brien, 23 Sam Beard

Date: Saturday, February 18
Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)

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