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Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

14th February 2014 07:31

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Roddy Grant Edinburgh Rugby 2012

Workhorse: Roddy Grant

Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has named an unchanged starting lineup for Saturday's PRO12 visit to Connacht at the Sportsground.

The men in black and red were due to play Dragons last Sunday but for the inclement Welsh weather and an unplayable pitch (the club's second successive PRO12 fixture to fall foul of the elements), which delayed the debut of Andries Strauss, and the first starts of Mike Coman, Carl Bezuidenhout and James Hilterbrand to the game in Galway.

The only changes to the squad named last week appear on the bench, where Scotland front-row forwards Ross Ford and Geoff Cross return from international duty during a fallow week in the Six Nations to replace elite development duo Geoge Turner and Ewan McQuillin.

"Missing the game against the Dragons in Newport was big because we have now not played for a month, which will have an impact. We will naturally be a bit rusty," said Solomons.

"The positive side is that we have had more time to practice because there are, during the Six Nations, quite substantial changes to the team.

"However, all things being considered, the players have prepared well and are ready for this game."

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to the team that lined up against Glasgow last weekend.

Following his start in last week's Eagles game, Dave McSharry makes a welcome PRO12 return to partner Eoin Griffin in the centre. His appearance allows Craig Ronaldson to shift to fly-half where he forms the half-back pairing with Kieran Marmion.

Galway-born Tiernan O'Halloran has been named to start on the left wing and features in an all-Irish qualified back line.

Up front, Connacht's highest capped player Michael Swift is brought into the second-row. His introduction means that Andrew Browne moves back to openside flanker.

Number eight John Muldoon will captain the side at the Sportsground.

Form: Connacht have won just one of their last twelve PRO12 matches: 14-11 at home to the Dragons on 21 December.

The Irishmen have lost their last four contests with Scottish opponents since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield last April.

Edinburgh have not played in the tournament since Boxing Day having suffered two postponements in away games due to waterlogged pitches.

The Scotsmen have won just once on the road this season: 16-10 at Gloucester in the Heineken Cup in December.

Edinburgh's only victory in Ireland since September 2009 was at Connacht in December 2012.

The last eight fixtures between the two sides have been evenly split with four wins apiece, with Edinburgh winning by the narrowest of margins on their last visit to Galway in round 10 last season.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Michael Swift, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughneym. 18 JP Cooney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Darragh Leader

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Harry Leonard

Date: Saturday, February 15
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Olly Hodges (Ireland), Mark Connolly (Ireland)

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