Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Treviso

28th February 2014 10:15

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Robbie Henshaw Connacht 2012

Back for Connacht: Robbie Henshaw

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to his side to face Treviso at the Sportsground on Saturday.

20-year-old Robbie Henshaw has been released from Ireland camp to take up the position of full-back in an otherwise unchanged back line from the side that secured a four-try bonus point win over Zebre just five days ago.

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion is in line to earn his 50th cap on Saturday, having played in every Connacht game since his debut at the beginning of the 2012/13 season and starting in all but two of those games.

Up front, Aly Muldowney replaces Michael Swift for his fourth start of the season. The 6 foot 5 inch lock will partner Mick Kearney in the second row.

Galway-born Eoin McKeon makes a welcome return from injury to start at number eight in a back row with Academy forward Eoghan Masterson and captain John Muldoon.

Veteran prop Nathan White is named on the bench, while Connacht centurion Frank Murphy gets the nod at replacement scrum half.

"With another six-day turnaround this week it's important to have fresh legs available in Robbie (Henshaw) and players like Eoin (McKeon) coming back from injury," said Lam.

"Denis (Buckley) and Rodney (Ah You) both put in Man of the Match performances in the last three games and they deservedly retain their starting spots this week. But it's great to be able to call on the experience of Nathan (White) from the bench.

"Aly (Muldowney) has been training and playing very well these last few weeks and he deserves his chance to start against Treviso tomorrow.

"It's also such a great achievement for young Kieran (Marmion) to have reached the 50 cap milestone. The fact that he has played 50 consecutive games since his senior debut is testament to his ability, his durability and his sheer toughness.

This week, coming up against Treviso, has been all about focus. Coming off the back of two wins, we understand what we need to do ourselves to make it three-in-a-row.

"Against Ulster last week and also when we played them in October, Treviso showed what they're made of and the type of challenge they present. Going into the break we want to finish off this block of games on a high - for us and for our supporters."

Meanwhile, Treviso coach Marius Goosen will have seven of Azzurri players back for the game: flankers Robert Barbieri, Paul Derbyshire and Manoa Vosawai, prop Lorenzo Cittadini, winger Angelo Esposito, centre Alberto Sgarbi and lock Antonio Pavanello.

Moreover, also at his disposal is scrum-half Tobias Botes, who hasn't been called up by the Italian side's last two games of theSix Nations.

Also with the team are two permit players from Petrarca Padova and Vea Femi CZ Rugby Rovigo Delta: Romulo Acosta and Joe Van Niekerk.

Form: Connacht have won their last two fixtures in the RaboDirect PRO12, at home to Edinburgh and away at Zebre but have not won three in a row in the tournament for exactly 12 months. Connacht have faced Italian opponents on five occasions this season in all tournaments and lost only once: 3-23 in Treviso in round 5 of the PRO12. Just one Italian side has ever beaten Connacht at the Sportsground in any competition: Treviso, who did so 15-13 in the PRO12 in December 2011. Benetton Treviso have won just once in the PRO12 since round 5: 20-15 at home to Zebre on 28th December and have not won on the road in the tournament since their victory at the Scarlets in round 22 last season. The two sides have met on seven previous occasions in the PRO12 with honours even at three wins apiece plus a draw.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Nathan White, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Danie Poolman.

Treviso: 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Alberto Sgarbi, 12 Joe Van Niekerk, 11 Andrea Pratichetti, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Marco Filippucci, 7 Paul Derbyshire, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Antonio Pavanello (c), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Matteo Muccignat.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Romulo Acosta, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Valerio Bernab˛, 21 Robert Barbieri, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Brendan Williams.

Date: Saturday, March 1
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Will O'Connor (Ireland)
Assessor: Bertie Smith (Ireland)

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