Preview: Connacht v Glasgow

Date published: May 6 2016

Connacht duo Tiernan O’Halloran and Kieran Marmion will mark a 100th appearance each when they run out at the Sportsground for Round 22 of the PRO12 against Glasgow Warriors.

Marmion is one of nine personnel changes made by head coach Pat Lam for the sold out clash that will decide a home play-off spot.

Bundee Aki and Matt Healy have both returned from injury to take their place in a backline that also sees the re-introduction of internationals Robbie Henshaw at centre and AJ MacGinty at fly-half

The league’s highest capped player John Muldoon returns to captain the side at number eight behind a second row partnership of Ultan Dillan and Aly Muldowney. Finlay Bealham, the only player to have featured in all 28 games so far this season, is named to start at tighthead prop.

Commenting on the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said: “Going into play-off rugby, we couldn’t ask for a better challenge than playing the defending champions who are on fire at the moment. Glasgow are undefeated since February and they have threats all over the park. While there is so much at stake, we know it’s important for us is to stay focused on what has got us here in the first place.  The key now is raising all our standards and team work to yet another level over the next few weeks.

“While we have our place in the play offs secure, we all know what it would mean to the club and the province if we can bring a semi-final to the Sportsground for the first time.

“Both sides have an attacking mindset so it should be an entertaining game for all rugby fans and especially those at the sold out Sportsground. We are really looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, it’s a new back-three for Glasgow with Stuart Hogg returning at full-back in place of Glenn Bryce, Tommy Seymour coming in for Taqele Naiayravoro and Lee Jones replacing Sean Lamont.

Alex Dunbar moves from inside to outside centre and will form a midfield partnership with Peter Horne, who comes in for Mark Bennett.

Finn Russell replaces Duncan Weir at fly-half, with Ali Price starting at scrum-half and Grayson Hart named on the bench.

Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown and Sila Puafisi come into the front-row in place of Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Pat MacArthur and D’arcy Rae.

Following his hat-trick in the 70-10 win over Zebre last Friday, Leone Nakarawa continues in the second-row and captain Jonny Gary returns to the engine room, with Greg Peterson not involved this weekend.

Rob Harley keeps his place on the blindside, with Ryan Wilson replacing Simone Favaro at openside and Josh Strauss returning to the side in place of Adam Ashe at number eight.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We’re really looking forward to the game in Galway.

“Connacht play an expansive style of rugby and have a good home record, so we’ll have to produce an eighty minute performance if we’re to secure a home play-off.

“The players have worked extremely hard over the last few weeks and we have genuine competition for places throughout the squad.

“We are aware of the importance of this fixture and will be doing all we can to come back from Ireland with a win.”

The winner of this match will guarantee a home Play-off, the losers will have to wait on other results.

Form: Connacht have lost three of their last four matches in all competitions, but the three defeats have all been away from home. Connacht’s only defeat at The Sportsground this season in any tournament was to Ulster in the PRO12 on 26 December. Glasgow Warriors top the table for the first time this season following their biggest ever Guinness PRO12 victory at home to Zebre last weekend. The Warriors have won their last nine encounters in the tournament since Ulster beat them in Belfast on 12 February. Warriors have won their last eight fixtures against Connacht with the Irishmen’s most recent victory in the series being 37-8 in Galway in February 2011.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Nidi Adeolokun, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Ronan Loughney
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 John Cooney, 22 Shane O’Leary, 23 Peter Robb

Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (c), 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Simone Favart, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Mark Bennett, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, May 7
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Venue: Sportsground
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: TBC