Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Harlequins

19th January 2012 12:37


Joe Marler

Back in the side: Joe Marler

Harlequins go into their final Heineken Cup pool game against Connacht with it all to play for and an opportunity to qualify for the quarter-final stages.

There is just one personnel and one positional change to Conor O'Shea's backline that began in last week's win against Gloucester at the Stoop.

Sam Smith comes into the XV on the left wing with Ugo Monye moving to the right. Tom Williams has been allowed to remain at home with his partner who is expecting the birth of their first child.

Joe Marler and Chris Brooker both return to the front-row alongside James Johnston. Tomas Vallejos comes into the number four shirt alongside the returning George Robson. The back-row of Maurie Fa'asavalu, Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter remain the same.

On the bench, Joe Gray, Mark Lambert and Tim Fairbrother cover the front-row. Olly Kohn is on the bench with Luke Wallace covering the back five of the scrum. Richard Bolt and Rory Clegg continue to cover half-back with Tom Casson covering the remainder of the backline.

Meanwhile, Connacht made just one change from the team that took on Toulouse in Stade Ernest Wallon last weekend with Ronan Loughney replacing Dylan Rogers at tighthead.

Loughney was called into the Ireland Wolfhounds squad on Wednesday along with four other Connacht players; Brett Wilkinson, John Muldoon, Gavin Duffy and Mike McCarthy while Tiernan O'Halloran was called in as an additional player to the Senior Ireland squad.

27-year-old Loughney has shown great versatility this season, moving from loosehead to tighthead prop, and the 111kg Galway-man has excelled not just in the set-piece.

With five appearances short of 100 Loughney adds to an already experienced Connacht pack who boast 991 caps between them while captain Gavin Duffy is experienced at 15.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (capt), 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Kyle Tonetti, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul O'Donohoe, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dylan Rogers, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Henry Fa'afili.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Tomas Vallejos, 3 James Johnston, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Tim Fairbrother, 19 Olly Kohn, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Richard Bolt, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Casson.

Date: Friday, January 20
Kick-off: 20:00
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Jonathan Mason (Wales)
Television match official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

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