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Preview: Aironi v Connacht

25th March 2011 10:43

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Return: Sean Cronin

Connacht have made one change to their starting line-up that will face Aironi in Italy this Saturday, as Sean Cronin returns to the side at hooker.

The Limerick native has 44 Magners League caps for Connacht in his three seasons and appeared in all of Ireland's Six Nations matches, bringing his total number of international caps to 12.

Mike McCarthy continues his partnership with Michael Swift in the second-row. McCarthy recently signed a new two-year deal and the 29-year-old's superb form this season saw him called into the Irish squad and earning his first cap for the Ireland Wolfhounds against the English Saxons.

Miah Nikora's knee injury ruled him out and his place is taken by Shane Monahan on the bench in the only other change to the matchday 23.

The teams met for the first time two weeks ago, when Connacht took the win 11-6 under the snow. This time could be different, with expected temperature over 20C in Viadana. B

Aironi's starting XV will also look different with Giulio Rubini back in the starting line-up at full-back, in a position he played for Rugby Parma in the Italian Super 10 in the last years and also for Italy when he made his international debut during 2009 Six Nations.

James Marshall, who started at full-back in the last two games, returns at fly-half.

Coach Rowland Phillips bet again on a couple of speedy wings with Kaine Robertson and Danwel Demas, while Matteo Pratichetti and Gabriel Pizarro play in the centre.

There is just one change in the pack to the team that played in Galway, with Fabio Staibano returning at tighthead prop. The only international returning from the Six Nations in the 23-man list is Pablo Canavosio, who will start amongst the replacements.

Form: Aironi gained their 6th losing bonus point of the season when they visited Connacht two weeks ago. Connacht's only defeat in their last seven matches in all competitions was 18-33 at Ospreys on 27 February. The Irishmen have lost on both their visits to Italy so far this season: 21-23 at Prato in the Amlin Challenge Cup and 17-24 in Treviso in the Magners League on 30 October. The two teams have met just once before with Connacht triumphing 11-6 at the Sportsground on 11 March.

The teams:

Aironi: 15 Giulio Rubini, 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 James Marshall, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Gareth Krause, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Marco Bortolami (capt), 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Roberto Santamaria, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Pablo Canavosio, 22 Riccardo Bocchino, 23 Horacio San Martin.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Brian Tuohy, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Troy Nathan, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Ray Ofisa, 7 Johnny O'Connor (capt), 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Bernie Upton, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Keith Matthews, 23 Shane Monahan.

Date: Saturday, March 26
Kick-off: 17:30 (16:30 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Zaffanella
Referee: Neil Hennessy (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Giulio de Santis, Claudio Castagnoli (both FIR)

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