Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Date published: September 29 2016

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Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made two changes to his starting XV for Friday’s PRO12 match against Edinburgh in Galway.

Peter Robb returns to the starting line-up to partner Bundee Aki in midfield in an otherwise unchanged backline.

In the pack, 25-year-old Conor Carey makes his Connacht debut starting in the front row with Denis Buckley and Tom McCartney.

Commenting on the upcoming game, Lam said: “We’re back at the Sportsground tomorrow and really looking forward to the challenge.

“We are under no illusions as to the threat that Edinburgh pose, and the physicality they will bring to the contest. We are determined to continue improving in our game as we look to earn the points that are available.”

Meanwhile, a quartet of Scotland internationalists will re-enter the fold for Edinburgh.

Forwards Ross Ford, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist and John Hardie are among seven personnel changes from last week’s loss at Thomond Park, with try-scorer Hardie promoted from the bench.

In the backs, scrum-half Sean Kennedy will make his first start of the season and is partnered by fly-half Jason Tovey, who returns to play after missing out on the opening games of the season through a wrist injury.

The final change to the starting side is in the midfield, where Chris Dean – who scored his second try for the club against Munster – shuffle to outside centre to accommodate the incoming Solomoni Rasolea, prompting a move to wing for Mike Allen.

Acting head coach Duncan Hodge said: “It’s been a challenging week for all involved but we’ve got a massive game we need to win on Friday night. In the short-term our focus has got to be on tomorrow’s match.

“We’ve got some fresh faces coming in from last week who will lift the team and give us a fresh energy for the game.”

“Connacht have talismanic players among them and they’re always a tough team to play, especially at home.

“They’ll be physical, but we know what to expect. We have prepared well this week and can’t wait to embrace the challenge, start to change our performances and get results for the club.”

Glenn Bryce makes his fifth consecutive start at full-back, with Damien Hoyland and Allen on the wings.

Rory Sutherland continues at loosehead prop alongside Ford and Nel, while Ben Toolis partners Gilchrist in the boiler-room.

Last week’s man of the match, Magnus Bradbury, packs down at blindside flanker, with back-row cohorts Hardie and Du Preez, while Sasa Tofilau is included on the bench after missing out on last week’s away trip to Munster.

Players not considered due to injury: Simon Berghan (foot), Anton Bresler (groin), Tom Brown (groin), Kevin Bryce (elbow), Phil Burleigh (shoulder), Alasdair Dickinson (hamstring), Will Helu (hamstring), Rory Scholes (leg), George Turner (ankle), Duncan Weir (jaw).

Form: Edinburgh Rugby’s only victory in their last seven Guinness PRO12 matches was 20-9 at home to Scarlets in round two. Edinburgh’s only away victory in any tournament since early January was by a single point on a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons in March. Connacht achieved the season’s double over Edinburgh for the first time last year, although the Scotsmen have won on two of their last four visits to Galway.

The teams: 

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon(c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 James Connolly, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Shane O’Leary, 23 Cian Kelleher

Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Solomoni Rasolea, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 John Hardie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Jack Cosgrove, 18 Allan Dell, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sasa Tofilau, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Date: Friday, September 30
Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 19:35 (GMT 18:35)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees (Wales), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)

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