Preview: Treviso v Connacht

Date published: February 24 2017

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made six changes to his starting XV for  Sunday PRO12 clash with Treviso in Italy.

Bundee Aki makes a welcome return to the side, lining out in midfield with Craig Ronaldson. Caolin Blade will start at scrum-half once again having been drafted in late to the starting XV in place of Ireland international Kieran Marmion last Saturday.

Danie Poolman makes his 80th Connacht appearance coming in to start for Matt Healy who picked up a minor hip injury in training during the week.

Up front, hooker Shane Delahunt earns his third start of the season packing down in a front row with props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.

James Cannon comes in to the pack to join Ultan Dillane in the second row while Nepia Fox-Matamua gets his opportunity in the highly competitive back row alongside Galway duo Sean O’Brien and John Muldoon.

Commenting on the upcoming game, Lam said: “We know from experience how difficult it is to go to Treviso and get a good result. With the travel factor and the short turnaround on the other side, It is so important that we get our mental preparation spot on as well as the physical side of things.

“Every game and every point is vital for us and we will be going to Italy fully intent on improving on last week’s performance.”

Meanwhile, Treviso head coach Kieran Crowley has made two changes to his run-on side after last weekend’s loss against Leinster.

In the back-line, Alberto Sgarbi comes in at inside centre where he replaces Tommaso Allan, who is in Italy’s side for their Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham.

The only other change sees Andrea Buondonno replacing Angelo Esposito on the left wing.

Sgarbi will also captain the side.

Form: Treviso’s most recent victory was 23-12 at home to Zebre on December 23. Their only other victory at Stadio Monigo in the PRO12 this season was against Newport Gwent Dragons in Round 4. Connacht have won their last two PRO12 encounters but have not won three in a row in the regular season since March. The Irishmen won their most recent away game in the championship at Cardiff Blues in Round 14 – their first away win for 11 months. Connacht have lost only one of their last six fixtures with Treviso: 21-22 at Stadio Monigo in Round 21 of the PRO12 last season.

The teams:

Treviso: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (c), 11 Andrea Buondonno, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Roberto Santamaria, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Luca Nostran, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Enrico Francescato, 22 Andrea Pratichetti, 23 David Odiete

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 John Andress, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 John Cooney, 22 Tom Farrell, 23 Stacey Ili

Date: Sunday, February 26
Venue: Stadio Monigo, Treviso
Kick-off: 13:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Guiseppe Vivarini (Italy)