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Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

21st February 2013 12:02

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Chris Czekaj in action for Cardiff Blues

Full-back: Chris Czekaj

Cardiff Blues have named full-back Chris Czekaj in their starting line-up for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Connacht at the Arms Park.

Czekaj makes his first start for the Blues this season having recovered from a foot injury, suffered against Worcester in pre-season.

The Blues take on a Connacht team that beat Ospreys 22-10 in Round 15 but have not won back-to-back contests in the tournament since April. The Irishmen's only away win in the PRO12 this season remains the win at Zebre in Round 2.

Cardiff's last three games in the PRO12 have remarkably all been won by the away side on the day but they have a strong record against the Irish side with Connacht having won just two in their 19 previous matches with the Blues, both in Galway.

"It was good to get the result up in Scotland last week against Edinburgh. We played well and our defence was strong," said director of rugby Phil Davies.

"We've built our performances and had some good results since the start of the year.

"We want to continue building on that and gather some momentum.

"I'm sure that Connacht will be a tough encounter for us.

"They are a good team; a very direct side who kick well and run hard.

"Our defence will have to be up to the mark and our back three I'm sure will have a busy night.

"Former Blues fly half, Dan Parks, I'm sure will be a threat. He is a quality player and I know him well, being the first coach to bring him to the UK when I was coaching Leeds.

"He came over for eight games and did an excellent job. He was a great distributor and a running fly half. He was always a good goal kicker and his game has evolved a lot since he arrived."

Meanwhile, Connacht have made four changes to the team that beat Ospreys last week.

While Robbie Henshaw remains in Ireland camp, fit-again skipper Gavin Duffy, who earned his 150th Connacht cap last week, will start at full-back tomorrow.

Fetu'u Vainikolo is named on the wing, replacing Tiernan O'Halloran who suffered a knee injury against Ospreys.

With centres Dave McSharry (groin) and Kyle Tonetti (shoulder) both unavailable, 27-year-old Brian Murphy will start at inside centre.

Meanwhile, there is just one change up front with Andrew Browne replacing Mick Kearney in the second-row.

Recent returnee from injury Denis Buckley is named on the bench as well as replacement back-rower TJ Anderson.

Form: Cardiff Blues last three games in the RaboDirect PRO12 have remarkably all been won by the away side on the day. The Blues have won just one of their last six games at the Arms Park in the PRO12: 12-10 over Dragons on Boxing Day. Connacht beat Ospreys 22-10 in Galway in round 15 but have not won back to back contests in the tournament since April. The Irishmen's only away win in the PRO12 this season remains the victory at Zebre in round two. Connacht have won just two in their 19 previous matches with the Blues:, both in Galway, in September 2005 (13-9) and in September 2009 (18-16). Connacht's only win at the Arms Park was 6-3 over Cardiff RFC on 18 August 2001.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (c), 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Rory Watts-Jones, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Gareth Davies.

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 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 TJ Anderson, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Matthew Jarvis.

Date: Friday, February 22
Kick-off: 19:30
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)

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