Preview: Dragons v Connacht

Date published: February 20 2015

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Head Coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to his Connacht side that will face Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales on Sunday.

On his return from injury, Craig Ronaldson has been named to start at inside centre while Dave McSharry moves outside him and Danie Poolman switches out to the wing.

In the absence of Kieran Marmion, scrum half John Cooney will partner Jack Carty at half back.

There is just one change to the pack with George Naoupu making way for Eoghan Masterson at number 8 for the 21-year-old’s first start of the season.

Changes to the bench include the incoming Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham and Mick Kearney.

"Despite last week’s defeat to Scarlets, we remain in sixth place and a top six finish is still in our hands. However, we no longer have that safety net and the outcome of tomorrow’s game is important for both sides," said Lam.

"The Dragons’ side will be brimming with confidence on their home patch after a big win last week and we know the challenge we face.  

"The guys worked extremely hard in what was a tough week’s training but that work needs to be reflected in 80 minutes of team work on the field on Sunday."

Meanwhile for the Dragons Boris Stankovich is the only change to the team that defeated last years Guinness PRO12 table toppers Leinster, at the RDS last weekend. 

Head coach Kingsley Jones commented: "It’s fantastic that we got a win against the champions… I thought that we deserved the win. 

"The real challenge for us is at Rodney Parade, we haven’t performed as well as we would’ve liked to have done there. 

"Connacht are a very good team and a very serious outfit. I thought that they performed well for large periods of time against the Scarlets but still lost and they will be coming down to Wales again looking for a victory."

Full-back Jason Tovey retains his place in the back three alongside wings Tom Prydie and Hallam Amos, who was released from Wales camp this week to feature for the Dragons. The centre pairing of Pat Leach and Jack Dixon also stays the same, as well as the half-back partnership of Dorian Jones and scrum-half Jonathan Evans. 

Stankovich gets the nod and is joined by fellow prop Brok Harris and hooker T. Rhys Thomas. The second row of Andrew Coombs and skipper Rynard Landman also stays the same, along with flankers James Thomas and Nic Cudd retaining their places as well as number eight Nick Crosswell. 

The replacements bench has one change made to it as Phil Price replaces Stankovich. 

Form: The Dragons' only defeat in their last five fixtures in all tournaments was 32-37 at home to Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 1 February. The Dragons have won just two of their last six home games in the Guinness PRO12 and have not beaten an Irish province at Rodney Parade since lowering the colours of Ulster in September 2013. The Dragons did however end Leinster’s 21 game unbeaten run at the RDS in the Guinness PRO12 with their victory on Sunday. Connacht’s only win in their last five Guinness PRO12 matches was 24-16 over Munster in Galway on New Year’s Day. The Irishmen have not won away from home in the tournament since they visited Treviso on 10 October. Connacht have lost on their last four visits to Wales since winning this equivalent fixture at Rodney Parade last year. The Dragons' sole victory in their last seven encounters with Connacht was 14-3 in Newport on 23 November 2012. Connacht have won on two of their last three visits to Rodney Parade.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 James Thomas, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Brok Harris, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Boris Stankovich 
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Dan Way, Ian Gough, James Benjamin, Richie Rees, Ashley Smith, Matthew Pewtner. 

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Dave McSharry, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley 
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Niyi Adeolokun, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran

Date: Sunday, February 22
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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