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Preview: Ospreys v Connacht

09th May 2014 13:13

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Skipper: Alun Wyn Jones

Connacht head coach has made four changes to his side for the final game in his first season in charge against the Ospreys on Saturday.

Up front, 23-year-old hooker Dave Heffernan will pick up his first start of the season in Connacht colours, replacing the injured Jason Harris-Wright. Mayo-born Heffernan has made 11 appearances from the bench in this PRO12 campaign, scoring a last minute try against Munster in Thomond Park.

Heffernan is joined in the front row by loosehead prop Denis Buckley whose introduction to the starting XV sees Ronan Loughney switch over to tighthead while Rodney Ah You, who has featured in every game this season, moves to the bench.

Andrew Browne is named to start at blindside flanker while his fellow Galway-born teammate and captain John Muldoon shifts to number eight. Conor Gilsenan will earn his second PRO12 start.

Aly Muldowney and Mick Kearney retain their positions in the second row, completing the all-Irish pack.

In the backs, there is a reshuffle at centre as Dave McSharry returns to Inside Centre, with Eoin moving outside him. 20-year-old Robbie Henshaw, who will be joining up with the squad late on Saturday morning due to a family commitment, is named amongst the replacement backs.

On the bench, Academy scrum half Caolin Blade is included in the senior match day squad for the first time. 20-year-old Blade has just completed his first year under Nigel Carolan in the Academy. The Monivea man has been involved with Ireland at under age level and this year has put in impressive performances with the Connacht Eagles.

19-year-old sub-Academy hooker is once again called onto the replacements bench after earning his first senior cap against Munster at the Sportsground last month.

"Ospreys will of course be hurting from the fact that they didn't make the playoff position after a very good season. With the defeat to Zebre last week, they will want to finish off their season with a good win in front of their home fans," said Lam.

"Playing them in their back yard has always been a challenge for us. We haven't won over there in ten years. No one will give us a chance but it's up to us to change the record.

"We spoke this week about not seeing this as just our last game. It is another time we pull on the Connacht jersey with pride and a huge opportunity to improve ourselves and finish the season as high up as we can."

Meanwhile, highly-rated youngster Sam Davies starts at full-back for Steve Tandy's Ospreys in their final game of the PRO12 season.

Hanno Dirksen and flying Canadian Jeff Hassler are on the wings, while Wales international Ashley Beck is named at outside centre, with Dan Biggar partnering Tom Habberfield in the half-backs.

Aaron Jarvis wins a starting berth at tighthead prop alongside Scott Baldwin and Nicky Smith in the front-row, while Alun Wyn Jones skippers the side from lock.

Form: Ospreys cannot make the PRO12 playoffs but have qualified for next season's European Champions Cup, finishing in fifth place for the second year in succession.

Ospreys have lost just one of their last five home games in all tournaments: 11-25 to Munster in the PRO12 at Liberty Stadium on 23rd February.

A victory could see Connacht equal their best ever finish in the PRO12 (8th placed in both 2011/12 and 2012/13).

Connacht have lost their last four matches since beating Dragons at Rodney Parade in round 17.

Connacht have won just one of their last eleven fixtures with Ospreys: 22-10 in Galway in February 2013 and have not beaten Ospreys on their own soil since a visit to the Gnoll in November 2004.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Jonathan Spratt, 23 Aisea Natoga

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Conor Gilsean, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Jack Dinneen, 17 Finlay Beahlam, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Robbie Henshaw

Date: Saturday 10th May
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 1830 BST
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Sco)
Assistant referees: TBC
TMO: TBC

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