Preview: Connacht v Ospreys

Date published: September 27 2013

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made four changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with the Ospreys in Galway.

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made four changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with the Ospreys at the Sportsground in Galway.

Up front, hooker Sean Henry comes in for the injured Jason Harris-Wright. The 25-year-old Sligo man, who picked up game time in all three RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures to date, is joined in the front row by veteran props Brett Wilkinson and Nathan White.

There are changes to the back row with Galway man Andrew Browne named at number six and Jake Heenan moving to the openside.

In the backs, Fionn Carr makes way for Danie Poolman who is named in his favoured position on the right wing. Summer signing Craig Ronaldson will start at fly-half in his fourth professional appearance for the province since moving from reigning AIL club champions Lansdowne RFC. The 23-year-old was named Division 1A Player of the Year after scoring a remarkable 206 points in 16 games last season.

From the replacements bench, former Ireland U20s hooker James Rael could make his first appearance in Connacht colours tomorrow evening.

Speaking about the team selection and the upcoming fixture, Lam said: “Losing both Wilile and Jason was a big loss for us as a team but it presents an opportunity for other, young players to step up.

“We're looking forward to Craig's first start at this level. He deserves his opportunity after his work in pre-season and has done well coming on from the bench in the last three games.

“Ospreys present another big challenge for us and another step up. They are four time league champions and are undefeated so far this season. They will come here full of confidence with their returning Lions' players.

“We've had a good week training and we're looking forward to confronting the challenge ahead.”

Tandy said: “After going to Treviso and Leinster in the first two weeks, this is another tough away game that will really test us.

“It's always a difficult place to go. It's as recently as February that we've come off second best there, so we'll travel knowing that we have to go to go up a few notches from where we were last weekend if we want to take anything from this game.

“We know what to expect in terms of conditions, it'll be wet and windy as it always is, and we realise that going to Galway you have to play the conditions as well as the opposition. We'll have to be up for it from the first whistle or they'll make us pay.

“We are obviously pleased to be where we are in the table at the moment, up at the right end, but we won't be getting ahead of ourselves.

“Everybody in the group is well aware that we need to continue working hard, continue improving, and that there's a lot of rugby to come over the next eight months. We're heading in the right direction though and that's positive.

“The attitude in the group is good. We've seen some excellent performances from the core group here, the boys who have another year's experience after last season, and they'll be the ones who will be central to anything we achieve in the PRO12 this season.

“The Lions boys have been welcomed back in and have done a great job, while it's good to see the likes of Tom Habberfield and Aaron Jarvis also involved again.

“It makes for some very tough selections in the coming weeks, but that competition for places is exactly what we need, and will help drive standards within the group as we look forward to coming home to the Liberty for games against Ulster and Leinster on the next two weekends.”

Form: Connacht's only victory in their last half a dozen RaboDirect PRO12 games was 25-16 at home to Zebre in round 1. The Irishmen have won their last two home games against Welsh Regions. Ospreys are one of only two undefeated sides in the PRO12 after three rounds. The Welshmen have not beaten an Irish Province in their last four fixtures, a sequence which includes two draws, with all games being played away from home. Connacht won this equivalent fixture in Galway last season, 22-10, their first victory over Ospreys since 2008.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Michael Swift (c), 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 James Rael, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Fionn Carr.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Jonathan Spratt.

Date: Saturday, September 28
Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Dave O'Flynn (Ireland)
Assessor: Bertie Smith (Ireland)