Preview: Connacht v Scarlets

Date published: November 28 2014

Connacht boss Pat Lam has named a strong matchday squad for Saturday’s clash with the Scarlets at the Sportsground in Galway.

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named a strong matchday squad for Saturday’s clash with the Scarlets at the Sportsground in Galway.

Centre Robbie Henshaw is a late withdrawal having failed to fully recover from a minor hip flexor injury picked up in last week’s Ireland game but Connacht are bolstered by the return of Ireland internationals Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You.

Having played in every game this season, last week’s try scorer Jack Carty has been handed the reins at fly-half.

Along with Ah You coming in at tighthead prop, there are three more changes to the forwards pack. Hooker Tom McCartney, who earned his first Connacht cap from the bench last week, has been named for his first start in the absence of the injured Jason Harris-Wright.

The Galway-born duo of lock Andrew Browne and flanker Eoin McKeon has also been promoted from the bench.

Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game Lam said: “We were all very disappointed for Jason Harris-Wright this week but we’re thankful to have the experience of Tom McCartney to step in for his first start in a slightly changed pack.

“Scarlets are a well-coached side with huge squad depth and it’s been over three years since we beat them.

“Their win last week over an in-form Glasgow Warriors highlights the big challenge we face tomorrow night.

“But with both teams vying to climb the table, it is set up for a great evening at a lively Sportsground.”

Meanwhile, Scarlets front row pairing Peter Edwards and Kirby Myhill will both reach the milestone of 50 appearances for the Weslh region in this crunch clash.

The Scarlets are without nine players still on international duty but head coach Wayne Pivac is pleased with the way his squad have performed in recent weeks.

“The guys that have been doing the role over the last few weeks have done well in poor conditions and we’ve got some very good results,” explained Pivac.

“I’m pleased with how the squad’s been going. This is one more big 80 minute performance away from home for us before the internationals return.

“It’ll be a tough challenge. I’m told the conditions can be very challenging and they’ve got talent in that side and are well coached.”

The Irish province are a point ahead of Scarlets in the competition table are are currently in the coveted top six for next season’s qualification into Europe.

“Connacht are a serious threat to the top six for Europe and like us they’ll be pushing for top four,” added Pivac.

“This game in particular is a very, very big game for us. In terms of where we sit on the points table it will be a crucial game.”

Form: Connacht have lost just one of their last four Guinness PRO12 fixtures: 11-26 to Ospreys in Swansea in round 7, whilst their 43-3 victory over Zebre on Friday was their second biggest win in the history of the PRO12. The Irishmen are unbeaten at the Sportsground in any tournament this season. Scarlets only defeat in their last six PRO12 matches was to Munster in Limerick in round 6, however the Welshmen have not won an away game in any tournament since a trip to Treviso in February. Scarlets have won their last five encounters with Connacht since their 11-13 reversal at the Sportsground in September 2011.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9.Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 John Cooney, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Darragh Leader.

Scarlets: 15 Steffan Evans, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Michael Tagicakibau, 12 Regan King, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Aled Davies, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Rory Pitman, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Gareth Owen.

Date: Saturday, November 29
Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Venue: Sportsground
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Assessor: Bertie Smith (Ireland)