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Preview: Dragons v Connacht

29th March 2012 12:24

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Fetu u Vainikolo Connacht v Harlequins 2012

Back in: Fetu'u Vainikolo

Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his side that will take on the Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12 at Rodney Parade on Friday.

Following last weekend's heroics against play-off hopefuls Munster, Elwood has opted to make minimal changes with just one switch at the back.

Fetu'u Vainikolo starts on the wing with Kyle Tonetti moving to his more familiar centre in place of the injured Eoin Griffin. Griffin picked up a knee injury in the inter-provincial clash last Saturday.

The successful half-back pairing of Frank Murphy and Miah Nikora continues. Nikora kicked 11 of Connacht's 16 points last weekend, he works inside centres Fa'afili and Tonetti with Tiernan O'Halloran, Fetu'u Vainikolo and captain Gavin Duffy completing the backline.

The pack remains the same and following last week's impressive performance in the scrum and line-out with Irish Wolfhounds Brett Wilkinson and Ronan Loughney either side of try-scorer Ethienne Reynecke in the front-row. Mike McCarthy and Michael Swift make up the second-row and the Academy's Mick Kearney continues his rise through the ranks at blindside flanker, joined by the abrasive Ray Ofisa and talismanic John Muldoon in the back-row.

Meanwhile, the Dragons are boosted by the return from international duty of Wales' Grand Slam-winning trio Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau and Luke Charteris for the clash in Newport.

They will be looking to kick on from last week's 29-15 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Form: Dragons have won four of their last five matches in the RaboDirect PRO12, whilst their only defeat at Rodney Parade in any competition in 2012 was 14-24 to Munster in the PRO12 on 3 March. Dragons' solitary victory over an Irish province since January 2011 was 22-9 at home to Ulster on 30 September. Connacht have won just one RaboDirect PRO12 encounter since round four: 26-13 at home to Edinburgh on 24 February. The Irishmen have not won away from home in the tournament since a trip to Treviso on the opening weekend of this season. Connacht's only victory in Wales since 2004 was 13-11 against Dragons at Rodney Parade on 18 April 2008, whilst the last seven meetings between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Will Harries, 14 Tonderai Chavanga, 13 Andy Tuilagi, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Lewis Robling, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Jevon Groves, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Luke Charteris (capt), 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Dan Way, 19 Lewis Evans, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Joe Bedford, 22 Adam Hughes, 23 Steffan Jones.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Kyle Tonetti, 12 Henry Fa'afili, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Eoin McKeon, 20 Eoghan Grace, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Dave McSharry.

Date: Friday, March 30
Kick-off: 19:15 BST
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: James Jones (Wales), David Jones (Wales)
Television match official: Neil Ballard (Wales)

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Group A
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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens28
2Dragons25
3Bath25
4Gloucester25