Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Date published: January 8 2015

Head coach Pat Lam has named his Connacht team to face Edinburgh in Round 13 of the Pro12 on Friday with just one change to the team that defeated Munster 24-16 last week.

Miah Nikora has been selected at fly-half, replacing Craig Ronaldson who remains sidelined with concussion.

The 29-year-old New Zealander, who came on in the second half at the Sportsground last week, will form the half back pairing with Ireland international and this season’s top try scorer Kieran Marmion on Friday at the Sportsground.

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw are partnered in the centre for the third time this season while Mils Muliaina, Darragh Leader and Danie Poolman make up the back-three.

Up front, the pack remains unchanged with John Muldoon leading from the back row alongside Willie Faloon and Galway man Eoin McKeon who makes his 60th appearance for the province tomorrow night.

Connacht-born players Ronan Loughney and Jack Carty are both named amongst the replacements for the visit of the Scottish side.

Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, Head Coach Pat Lam said:

“With the pleasing team performance last week against Munster, we are putting out the same match day squad this week with the exception of Craig (Ronaldson). But after showing his experience from the bench last week, Miah (Nikora) now comes in to start this important game for us.

Meanwhile, following Friday’s victory over Glasgow Warriors, which secured Edinburgh the 1872 Cup and four league points, there are just three changes to the starting XV to take on Connacht.

Moving up from the bench, Willem Nel replaces John Andress at tighthead. Roddy Grant moves to the blindside with Hamish Watson – who returned to action after injury, from the bench last Friday – coming into the starting XV on the openside in place of Mike Coman, who is being rested. Ross Ford will captain the side.

There are no changes to the backs while coming on to the bench, and potentially making his first appearance for the club, is Scottish-qualified triallist fly-half Jade Te Rure.

After Connacht edged Edinburgh at Murrayfield – the club’s only home defeat this season – the visitors will be looking to redress the balance however as Connacht have won three of their last four encounters with Edinburgh, the task in hand should not be underestimated.

Head coach Alan Solomons said: “We have taken note of Connacht’s victory over Munster and their unbeaten home record and appreciate that we will have to be at our best to come away with the spoils.”

Form: Connacht ‘s two game losing run in the Pro12 ended with their momentous victory over Munster on New Year’s Day. Connacht have won their last five games in all tournaments at the Sportsground and are unbeaten there in all eight games this season. Edinburgh’s only defeat in their last five fixtures in all competitions came at Glasgow Warriors in the first leg of the 1872 Cup clash. Edinburgh’s only victory on the road in their last nine away games in the Pro12 came when they visited Munster on the opening round this season – their only victory over an Irish province since December 2013. Connacht have won three of their last four encounters with Edinburgh and, following their 14-13 victory at Murrayfield in Round 2, they are seeking a first ever league double over the Scotsmen. Edinburgh’s only victory in Galway in their last five visits since 2008 was 24-23 in December 2012.

The teams:

For Connacht: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 George Naoupu, 21 John Cooney, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Dave McSharry

For Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 David Denton, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Roddy Grant, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 John Andress, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jade Te Rure, 23 Andries Strauss

Date: Friday, January 9
Venue: The Sportsground
Kickoff: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Andy Brace, Olly Hodges
TMO: Dermot Moloney