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Preview: Connacht v Glasgow

02nd May 2013 12:57

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Johnny O Connor retires

Last game: Johnny O'Connor

Johnny O'Connor will start in the Connacht number seven jersey for one last time when they run out to tackle Glasgow in Galway on Friday.

The 33-year-old flanker will retire from rugby after the game, which is his 146th for the province.

O'Connor represents the only personnel change to the forwards from the team who drew to Treviso last weekend. He is joined in the back-row by Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon, who is at eight.

On his return from injury, 22-year-old Eoin Griffin is named at outside centre for the last game of the 2012/13 season. This change sees the season's record try scorer, Danie Poolman, move on to the right wing.

On the bench, Adrian Flavin is named at replacement hooker and is in line to make his 142nd and final appearance for Connacht - his team for the last seven years.

Connacht currently occupy eighth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and while a win would equal the best ever finish achieved last year, it would also mean a record number of wins in the league to go with a best away record so far.

Meanwhile, Glasgow enter the game knowing that if they win and other results go their way they could become the first Scottish side to secure a home play-off in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Gregor Townsend has made nine personnel changes to the team that beat the Ospreys 35-17 at Scotstoun last month, for the final game of the regular season.

There are also two positional switches from the team that secured their play-off place against the defending champions, with only Sean Lamont, Pat MacArthur, Moray Low, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley and John Barclay remaining in the starting XV.

British and Irish Lions pair Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland drop to the bench, along with Glasgow's player of the season Niko Matawalu, Ryan Grant and Josh Strauss.

Alex Dunbar, Graeme Morrison, Duncan Weir and Al Kellock drop out of the squad altogether for the trip to Galway.

"We were delighted with our performance against the Ospreys which secured our play-off spot, but we know we'll face a big challenge tomorrow night at a ground we've not won at since 2007," said Townsend.

"Connacht are enjoying a great run of form at the moment, having lost just twice in their last seven games, so it will be an extremely tough game for us, but one we're all looking forward to."

Peter Murchie comes in at full-back in place of Hogg, Tommy Seymour replaces Maitland on the right wing and the club's equal all-time top try scorer DTH van der Merwe comes in on the opposite side, with Sean Lamont moving to outside centre in place of Alex Dunbar.

Peter Horne replaces Morrison at inside centre, Ruaridh Jackson comes in for the injured Weir at fly-half and Henry Pyrgos replaces Matawalu at scrum-half.

In the pack Moray Low moves from tighthead to loosehead in place of Grant, with Jon Welsh coming in at tighthead and Pat MacArthur continuing at hooker.

Club captain Al Kellock drops out of the squad for the trip to Ireland as his wife has just given birth, so Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder combine in the second-row.

Ryan Wilson is given the captaincy and comes in at number eight, with Rob Harley continuing at blind-side and John Barclay keeping his place at open-side.

Form: Connacht currently occupy eighth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and are aiming to equal their best ever finish which they achieved last year. The Irishmen have won just one of their last four games, whilst their 23-24 loss to Edinburgh at the Sportsground in December ended a six game unbeaten run against Scottish opponents in Galway. Glasgow Warriors have already qualified for the Play-Offs, but will probably need to win to give themselves any chance of gaining home advantage. The Warriors last six fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day, and they have not tasted victory on the road since beating the Dragons 60-3 at Rodney Parade in February. Glasgow's only win in Ireland since 2009 came against Leinster at RDS in September 2011. The Warriors are unbeaten in their last three contests with Connacht, whilst they have not been victorious at the Sportsground since April 2007.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (capt), 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements (from): Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, JP Cooney, Mick Kearney, John Muldoon, Mata Fifita, Paul O'Donohoe, Miah Nikora.

Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH Van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson (c), 7 John Barclay, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Moray Low.
Replacements: 16 Doug Hall, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 James Eddie, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Sean Maitland, 23 Stuart Hogg.

Date: Friday, May 3
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
Television match official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: John Cole (Ireland)

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