Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Blues

01st May 2008 12:10

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Deiniol Jones

Centurion: Deiniol Jones is set for his 100th game for Cardiff Blues

Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made one change to his side ahead of Friday's Magners League showdown at the Sportsground against the Cardiff Blues.

Robbie Morris has recovered from his injury which kept him out of Connacht's win over the Dragons, to retake his position in the side at tighthead prop.

There are three changes among the replacements, as Samoan brothers Ofisa Treviranus and Ray Ofisa are both named in the matchday 22 for the first time since December 16 having recovered from their respective injuries. And former England Under-21 international, Michael McCarthy is also recalled after four weeks out.

Meanwhile, Deiniol Jones will become the first player to play 100 games for the Cardiff Blues.

Jones, joined the Blues from the Celtic Warriors in 2004 and as been one of the most consistent performers for the Blues over recent seasons.

The commitment and hard work that Jones puts into every match was finally recognized by the Welsh selectors when Deiniol was recalled in to the successful Welsh squad for the Six Nations 2008 after a five year absence.

"I think it's a measure of the guy's durability, who is playing in the engine room of the team," said Blues boss Dai Young.

"To play so many games while carrying bumps and bruises as he has is great testament to his commitment to the squad."

"He ha been playing at a high standard for us and especially over the past two seasons he has been an unsung hero. I was thrilled this year when he got the recognition he deserved with being called up into the Welsh squad.

"He's been a big part of our performances up front this year. He's very underestimated as a player and it's only now he's getting the recognition for his play.

Jones said: "It is a landmark and an honour to be the first person to play 100 games for the Blues and something that I will very proud to achieve.

"This year has been a season which we have taken another step forward. We have a good mix here of experienced players and some good youngsters coming through.

"Unfortunately we have not won anything but we have been very competitive in the league and taken a step forward in Europe. We have also put in some good performances away from home.

"It's hard to think of any games that sand out but obviously this season the Stade Franšais match at home was a great one. Unfortunately we didn't play at out best in Toulouse, which is something we have to do against the big European teams."

The Blues have won their last three matches in the Magners League against Edinburgh, Scarlets and Ulster and have won four of their last five games against Irish teams.

Connacht have met the Blues on nine previous occasions and been victorious just once: 13-9 at the Sportsground on 3 September 2005.

Xavier Rush returns from an injury to his bicep to lead the team in Galway and in all there are four changes from the Blues team that played so well against Ulster in the first half two weeks ago. Spice replaces Rees at nine, Rhys Thomas starts at Hooker and Scott Morgan at Lock. Amongst the subs there is a return for Bradley Davies who due to injury has not made a competitive start since November.

"On paper it's a game we should go out and win but unfortunately for whatever reason, they have been a bit of a banana skin for us," said Young.

"We realise that and know it's a very important game but it's a difficult place to get a result. They are a determined team and play on your mistakes. With the team that we have selected, I fully expect us to get the result. It won't be easy, but I expect the quality in our team to shine through.

"It's been a talking point for us to be the best placed Welsh team at the end of the season and a win on Friday should cement that. Being second in the league is a bit out of our hands, because it depends how Munster do, but being second isn't as important to me as being the best Welsh team."

Form: Connacht won 13-11 against Newport Gwent Dragons in their most recent outing but have not won successive matches in the Magners League since September 2006. Connacht are unbeaten at home in their last four matches against Welsh sides since the Llanelli Scarlets won in Galway on 15 September 2006. Cardiff Blues have won their last three matches in the Magners League against Edinburgh, Scarlets and Ulster. The Blues have won four of their last five games against Irish teams. Connacht have met the Blues on nine previous occasions and been victorious just once: 13-9 at the Sportsground on 3 September 2005.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Matt Mostyn, 13 Mel Deane, 12 Keith Matthews, 11 D Riordan, 10 Troy Nathan, 9 Conor O'Loughlin, 8 Colm Rigney, 7 Jonny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Andrew Farley (C), 4 David Gannon, 3 Robbie Morris, 2 Andrew Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.

Replacements: 16 John Fogarty, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Michael McCarthy, 19 Ray Ofisa, 20 Rob Shaw, 21 Andy Dunne, 22 Ofisa Treviranus.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Jamie Roberts, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Gareth Thomas, 11 Tom James, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Ma'ama Molitika, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements: 16 John Yapp, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Ben White, 20 Mark Lewis, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Dai Flanagan.

Date: Friday, 2 May

Kick-off: 18:30 (17:30 GMT)

Venue: Sportsground

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Touch judges: Eanna O'Dowd (Ireland), Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

Assessor: Tom Aplin (Ireland)

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