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Preview: Connacht v Dragons

22nd September 2011 13:46

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Mike McCarthy connacht 2009

Second row for Connacht: Mike McCarthy

Connacht have made five changes to their team to face the Dragons a the Sportsground on Friday.

In the pack Ray Ofisa comes in at number eight for the injured George Naoupu. Naoupu came off last weekend with a knee injury and is likely to be out for a number of weeks.

Dave Gannon will make his first start since his return to the Province. The 6'6 secondrow, who has 55 caps for Connacht from his time there in 2005/08, replaces Michael Swift who is unavailable due to illness.

After making his comeback from injury against the Scarlets two weeks ago Brett Wilkinson makes the starting lineup, with Ronan Loughney providing prop cover from the bench.

There's a new half-back pairing with Frank Murphy at scrum-half and Niall O'Connor at fly-half. The 24-year-old former Ulster and Ireland U20 player scored the winning penalty in Connacht's victory over the Scarlets at the Sportsground and crossed for his debut Connacht try against Edinburgh last weekend.

Brian Tuohy comes onto the wing for Mark McCrea.

Meanwhile Pontypool back Geraint O'Driscoll makes the step up to Pro12 Rugby for the first time as he starts at number 11 for Dragons.

The 23-year-old replaces the injured Mike Poole on the left wing. Further changes in the back division after last week's win over Aironi include; Matthew Pewtner for Adam Hughes at 14, Pat Leach moves from 12 to 13 with Ashley Smith returning to the staring line-up at 12, and Joe Bedford starts at scrum half with Wayne Evans on the bench

The only change to the pack sees Nathan Williams in for Phil Price for his first start at loose head.

Form: Connacht's winning start to the RaboDirect PRO12 season came to a halt at Edinburgh on Friday, whilst the Irishmen's only defeat at the Sportsground in their last eight matches in all competitions was 12-26 to Cardiff Blues on 15 April. Newport Gwent Dragons move off the basement in the table courtesy of their 23-14 home win against Aironi on Sunday. Dragons have not won on the road since their visit to Aironi on 20 February. The Men from Gwent have lost their last six encounters with Irish opponents. The last six encounters between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Dragons' only previous victory on Connacht soil came on their very first visit in May 2004.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Connacht:15 Gavin Duffy (C), 14 Brian Tuohy, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Henry Fa'afili, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Ray Ofisa, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Dave Gannon, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Dylan Rogers, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 TJ Anderson, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Mathew Jarvis, 23 James Loxton.

Dragons : 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Geraint O'Driscoll, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Joe Bedford, 8 Andrew Coombs, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Dan Way, 2 Tom Willis (c), 1 Nathan Williams
Replacements:

16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Darren Waters, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Tom Riley, 23 Matthew Jones

Date: Friday, September 23
Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 19.30 BST (18.30 GMT)
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU)

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