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Preview: Scarlets v Connacht

07th February 2013 09:14

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Connacht celebrating a win

On the road: Connacht

Connacht have made a number of changes to the team that played Zebre three weeks ago for their PRO12 fixture against the Scarlets on Friday.

Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris Wright and skipper Nathan White make up the front-row trio. Replacing Ireland international Mike McCarthy, Mick Kearney starts in the second-row alongside Connacht's highest capped player Michael Swift.

December's Player of the Month, Eoin McKeon, returned from injury last week and starts at number eight, joining flankers Andrew Browne and Johnny O'Connor in the back row.

In the backline, Tiernan O'Halloran is named at full back, replacing Robbie Henshaw who is on international duty this week. Danie Poolman, this season's joint lead try-scorer, and Fetu'u Vainikolo are named on the wings.

Kyle Tonetti will earn his first start for Connacht this season following a lengthy battle with injury. The 25-year-old has recovered fully and has been playing with his club Lansdowne RFC over the last number of weeks. Tonetti joined Connacht last season from Sale Sharks and was ever-present in the squad. He showed his versatility and ability to adapt featuring at inside and outside centre as well as a few games on the wing. He will start at inside centre in a partnership with Eoin Griffin.

The half-back pairing of Dan Parks and Kieran Marmion remains. Marmion earns his 20th cap and holds the record of the only player to have started every game this season.

On the bench there are some welcome returnees with Willie Faloon and John Muldoon named amongst the forward replacements. Gavin Duffy also returns to the fray and could feature in tomorrow's clash with Simon Easterby's side.

The Scarlets are strengthened with some returns from injury as well as welcoming back Welsh international back-row Josh Turnbull.

Scarlets captain Rob McCusker returns to the pack after a sinus injury to lead his team with returns to the pack for second row George Earle and young tighthead Samson Lee.

Young fly-half talent Owen Williams is rewarded with another start after his accomplished effort last weekend which helped steer the Scarlets win over Leicester; putting 21 points on the board from his boot and keeping the West Wales side in contention at half time.

Williams partners with another stand out young Scarlets player from last weekend, as Aled Davies keeps his starting scrum-half position.

The Scarlets top try scorer this season Andy Fenby who has notched up nine tries for this region this season switches wings with Kristian Phillips returning to action this weekend on the other wing. Gareth Owen remains at full-back.

Form: Scarlets ended a five game losing run with their 40-19 victory over Leicester Tigers at Parc y Scarlets in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Sunday. Scarlets have a won 3, lost 2 record at home in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season. Connacht have won two of their last three matches in all competitions, whilst the Irishmen have lost their last five away games since defeating Zebre 19-10 in Parma in the European Cup on 13 October. Connacht's only win in their last 18 visits to Wales since 2008 was 27-19 against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on 30 March 2012. Scarlets won 24-11 when the two sides met in round three of the RaboDirect PRO12, whilst Connacht's most recent victory in Llanelli came at the old Stradey Park, 29-21, on 9 October 2004.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Andy Fenby, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker (capt), 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (capt), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Willie Faloon, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Gavin Duffy.

Date: Friday, February 8
Kick-off: 19:30
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)

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