Preview: Ospreys v Connacht

Date published: October 30 2014

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made nine changes to his starting lineup ahead of the Pro12 game away to Ospreys on Friday.

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made nine changes to his starting lineup ahead of the Pro12 game away to Ospreys on Friday.

New recruit Bundee Aki will make his first appearance in a Connacht jersey at Liberty Stadium, starting in a midfield partnership with Craig Ronaldson.

Ireland squad trio Kieran Marmion, Rodney Ah You and Darragh Leader have all been temporarily released from the international training camp to play a part, with Marmion and Ah You included in the starting XV.

Wing Matt Healy and fly-half Jack Carty are both recalled to the backline while 22-year-old Shane Layden is given the nod at full-back for his second start of the season.

Celebrating his 24th birthday today, lock Quinn Roux returns to the pack while the Galway-born duo of John Muldoon and Eoin McKeon are named in the back row.

The most notable inclusion on the bench is Mayo-born prop Jamie Dever, who is in line to make his senior Connacht debut. The 21-year-old re-joined the Connacht Academy this season following a year-long sabbatical that allowed him to recover from a lengthy foot injury. JP Cooney is also likely to make his first appearance of the season.

“With Robbie (Henshaw) away in Ireland camp Bundee (Aki) gets his opportunity a bit earlier than expected after just arriving in the country ten days ago,” said Lam.

“We were initially looking at Bundee for our next game with Zebre but it’s great that he’s been keen to get going as soon as possible. He’s been very open to learning quickly in training and has made a big effort in getting to know his team mates.

“There’ll undoubtedly be a good bit of spotlight on him tomorrow night against Ospreys, but as always it is only a team effort that can lead to a positive outcome for us.”

Meanwhile, on-loan back rower Ieuan Jones makes his debut for the Ospreys.

“This time of the year is always a tough period, with international call-ups and injuries stretching the squad depth and that’s the case again this season,” said head coach Steve Tandy.

“Saying that, it’s an exciting time when we get to see some of the young talent coming through the ranks, and get to see them stepping up in training and on matchday alongside some of the senior Ospreys.”

Form: Ospreys have won all six Pro12 encounters this season and another victory this weekend will see them equal their best ever start to a Pro12 campaign, set in 2004/05. The Welshmen have lost only once at Liberty Stadium in any tournaments since January: 11-25 to Munster in the Pro12 on 23rd February. Connacht’s only defeat in the Pro12 this season came in round 4 at Glasgow Warriors. The Irishmen are unbeaten against Welsh regions this season, having defeated Newport Gwent Dragons and drawn with Cardiff Blues, both in Galway. Connacht have beaten Ospreys just one since the 2007/08 season: 22-10 at the Sportsground on 15th February 2013, whilst the Irishmen have lost on all nine previous visits they have made to Liberty Stadium.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Ieuan Jones, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Lloyd Peers (c), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Duncan Jones
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Marc, Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Jordan Collier, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Ashley Beck, 23 Aisea Natoga

Connacht: 15 Shane Layden, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Jamie Dever, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Dave McSharry, 23 Darragh Leader

Date: Friday, October 31
Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Kickoff: 19:35 local (GMT)
Referee: John Lacey
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse, Martyn Lewis
TMO: Paul Adams