Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Montpellier

14th January 2010 11:21

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Liam Bibo against Worcester

On the wing: Liam Bibo

Connacht have named a strong side to face Montpellier as they bid to secure an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place on Friday.

John Muldoon, who captains the team, has appealed for supporters to turn out in force for the eagerly-awaited encounter with the French side.

The West Coast province have won all four games to date in this season's competition but Montpol's only defeat has been to the Irish, so everything is to play for at the Sportsground.

Brett Wilkinson has been passed fit to play in the front row, having recovered from a hand injury, with Troy Nathan moving to full-back in the absence of the injured Gavin Duffy (cracked cheekbone).

"It is a huge game for us. We always felt this match would be pivotal," said coach Michael Bradley.

"If we beat Montpellier, we effectively win the pool as we should beat Madrid in the final pool game, so with six wins you would hope to secure a home quarter-final.

"That would be a good progression for this side, and that would be a great target for us and Connacht Rugby come April.

"In cup matches in the past and in one-off matches you have seen that Connacht can win those games, so if you get to a quarter-final, then you can get to a final.

"Montpellier will travel with confidence. They know that when we played them in Montpellier it was a very close game and they probably could have got a draw in the last few minutes had they taken their kicks at goal.

"Instead they tried to run in a try to win the game - that's how close it was."

Summing up the mood in the westerners' camp, number eight and skipper John Muldoon said Connacht have 'a huge opportunity' that he does not want to slip by when they run out on home soil this Friday.

"To win the pool and have a potential home quarter-final at a packed Sportsground would certainly have a big effect on us," the forward said.

"Every player would be fighting for places to get on the pitch, and it presents a huge opportunity for us.

"We had hoped we could push on after the two wins over Worcester, but the weather stalled that, so a good performance on Friday would help to kickstart us again for the rest of the season and the Magners League.

"Sometimes when you are playing week after week it can be mentally draining, but this week it's different. We have trained hard and everyone knows it's a big game and is raring to go."

Meanwhile, Montpellier have rested most of their big guns such as Francois Trinh-Duc and Fulgence Ouedraogo but Englishman Ollie Smith gets a start at outside centre.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Troy Nathan, 14 Liam Bibo, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Keith Matthews, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 John Muldoon (capt), 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 Mike McCarthy, 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Robbie Morris, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Conor O'Loughlin, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Adrian Wynne.

Montpellier:15 Jean-Matthieu Alcalde, 14 Benjamin Thiery, 13 Ollie Smith, 12 Grant Rees, 11 Thierry Brana, 10 Jaques Schutte, 9 Adrien Tomas, 8 Marc Giraud, 7 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 6 Vassili Bost, 5 Mamuka Gorgodze, 4 Michel Macurdy, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 Joan Caudullo, 1 Eugène Van Staden.
Replacements: 16 Fabien Rofes, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mickael Demarco, 19 Sakiusa Matadigo, 20 Maxime Castell, 21 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 22 Sebastien Max, 23 Juan Figallo.

Date: Friday, January 15
Kick-off: 19:00
Venue: Sportsground
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Graham Knox (Scotland), Ronnie Dumma (Scotland)

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