This weekend Connacht welcomes Scarlets to the Sportsground in what is undoubtedly one of the most important games of the season in terms of the province’s drive for a top-six finish. Sitting in seventh place, just one point behind Connacht, Wayne Pivac’s Scarlets side overcame Glasgow Warriors 19 – 9 last weekend to continue their unbeaten PRO12 home run since St Stephen’s Day in 2013.

With the availability of Irish trio Robbie Henshaw, Rodney Ah You and Kieran Marmion as well as Darragh Leader who replaced All Black centurion Mils Muliaina last week, Pat Lam and his coaching team will have a strong squad to pick from.  Tom McCartney is expected to make his first start, in the absence of the injured Jason Harris-Wright while Bundee Aki could join Henshaw in a new centre partnership.

Commenting on the importance of Saturday’s game, Lam said:

“This is the match of the round because so much rides on it for both teams. Six of the top seven play each other either this week or in the next round and, with that, we have to win, particularly at home.”

 “To win, we need to build on what we’ve being doing already this season and go through the process moment by moment.  If you look at last year’s scores (with Scarlets), they were close games. We had no problem scoring points, but it’s the defence which will be massively important for us. They have strike runners and quick men in their side, so we have had a vigorous defence session this week.

“This match won’t determine top 6 but it does play a big part in this half of the season. For us, one of our goals this season is protecting our Sportsground and it’s something we’ve been very pleased about. The boys set that for themselves as a goal. They really want to protect this ground. Now we have a big challenge this week but we can’t wait to go out there again on Saturday. ”

PRO12 Preview

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. Should Leinster lose on Saturday at home to Ospreys, the winner between Scarlets and Connacht later the same evening, will overtake them in the table. Whilst current form may point to a home win in that game, Scarlets have not lost in the PRO12 at the Sportsground since 2011.

Connacht v Scarlets
at the Sportsground, 7.30pm.
Live on SKY SPORTS and TG4
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 43rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, Brian MacNeice (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)
TMO: Seamus Flannery (IRFU)

Tickets are selling fast for Connacht v Scarlets but there are some remaining for the Main, Enclosed and new Seated Stand as well as behind the goals. Starting at just €20 for adults, tickets are available from tickets.ie, Centra & SuperValu stores province-wide or from the Connacht Rugby office at the Sportsground.

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