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Preview: Connacht v Ospreys

14th February 2013 12:26

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Kahn Fotualii Ospreys

At nine: Kahn Fotuali'i

Connacht welcome PRO12 champions the Ospreys to the Sportsground, with home coach Eric Elwood making three personnel changes to his starting XV.

Robbie Henshaw, who last week earned his first Ireland U20 cap, returns to full-back. The 19-year-old was instrumental in Ireland's dramatic one-point Six Nations victory over England in Athlone.

Tiernan O'Halloran, who covered at full-back last week, now returns to the right wing. Try-scorer Danie Poolman replaces Fetu'u Vainikolo on the left, completing the youthful and pacey back three.

A strong performance in Wales on his first game back from injury sees Kyle Tonetti retain the number 12 shirt. He joins up with Eoin Griffin.

Meanwhile, the front five remains unchanged with Nathan While captaining the side on Friday.

Recent returnees John Muldoon and Willie Faloon were brought off the bench against Scarlets last Friday night. This week, they both start in the back row, replacing Andrew Browne and Johnny O'Connor respectively.

Gavin Duffy is named on the bench and could make his 150th Connacht appearance.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys are without ten players who are unavailable for selection because of international duty with Wales senior and sevens squads

The following players were not considered because of injury: Ian Gough (calf), Andrew Bishop (back), Ashley Beck (ankle), Hanno Dirksen (knee), Tom Smith (groin), Joe Rees (neck) and Aaron Jarvis (knee).

"It's really important that we back up last Friday's win in Ulster with some good performances over the next couple of weeks. We need to make sure we show the same attitude, commitment and application against Connacht, Edinburgh and Munster, and if we do that, we should get our rewards," said head coach Steve Tandy.

"We've got no room for error in the end of season run-in. Three defeats in our first three games mean that we have had to play catch-up, and with more away games than home games remaining, it makes it doubly difficult."

Form: Connacht's last five games have all been won by the home side on the day. The Irishmen have won two of their last four matches in all competitions. Connacht's last three victories over a Welsh region have all been against Dragons. Ospreys have won their last five RaboDirect PRO12 contests since losing 13-23 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 23 November. Ospreys only two defeats by an Irish province since May 2011 have both been at the hands of Munster. Ospreys have won their last nine encounters with Connacht since the Irishmen were victorious, 24-20, at the Sportsground on 9 May 2008.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 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 Andrew Browne, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Gavin Duffy.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 James King, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Lloyd Peers, 20 Jonathan Thomas, 21 Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, 22 Rhys Webb, 23 Ross Jones.

Date: Friday, February 15
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Michael Black (Ireland), Will O'Connor (Ireland)
Television match official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Assessor: Michael Carroll (Ireland)

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5Connacht823