Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has given 21 year old Sligo man Cillian Gallagher his first start of the season as Connacht take on Conference rivals Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm).
 
Gallagher is one of ten changes to the Connacht side that played Bordeaux last weekend, with six players away on international duty and Gavin Thornbury picking up a shoulder injury in training during the week.
 
In the front row, Denis Buckley is named at loosehead alongside Finlay Bealham at tighthead and hooker Dave Heffernan, who signed a contract extension this week. Gallagher’s inclusion in the second row sees him form a partnership with James Cannon, while in the back row captain Jarrad Butler comes back into the side at number 8 alongside flankers Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a.
 
The half-back pairing sees James Mitchell coming in to partner David Horwitz who is retained at out-half.
 
The back three sees Tiernan O’Halloran starting again at full-back with Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher on the wings. In the midfield, on loan centre Tom Daly starts his second game of the season alongside Kyle Godwin.
 
With Connacht sitting five points ahead of Cardiff in Conference A of the PRO14, Head Coach Andy Friend says that this is a hugely important fixture in Connacht’s season; “We have won eight of our last ten games so we go into the game with confidence but we know what a tough team Cardiff are to play, especially when they are at home. These inter-conference games have a huge bearing on the overall standings in the PRO14 so we are fully aware of the importance of the fixture”, the Head Coach said.
 
We have made a few changes to our match day squad with players away on international duty and a few injuries to contend with, but we have picked a team that we have full confidence in to go to Cardiff and get a result”, Friend added.
 
#CARvCON
 
Kick-off 5:15pm:
 
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, David Horwitz, James Mitchell, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Conor Fitzgerald, Stephen Fitzgerald.
 

 

 

Match Preview from pro14rugby.org

Conference A rivals Cardiff Blues and Connacht clash as the Guinness PRO14 gets back underway this week.

Nearly three weeks since they were last in action in the championship, the Blues and Connacht help kick off Round Nine as they both attempt to put pressure on the teams currently occupying the play-off positions.

 

What’s at stake?

These two teams are currently separated by just a single point in the Conference A table, with Friday’s hosts Cardiff fifth and Connacht fourth.

A much-changed Blues suffered back-to-back defeats in the opening two rounds of the Anglo-Welsh Cup but were 37-8 victors over Zebre in their last Guinness PRO14 outing.

Connacht will head out in search of their first away win of the season in the championship, with both sides looking to overhaul the third-placed Cheetahs.

 

Team news (Cardiff Blues):

After two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, the Blues have made ten changes to the side that started their loss to Ospreys last time out.

Jarrod Evans and Tomos Williams will start at half-back, with the former taking the place of Steve Shingler, who has been ruled out for a month with an ankle injury.

Cardiff are also missing captain Gethin Jenkins and full-back Rhun Williams.

 

Team news (Connacht):

Connacht will be without Ireland internationals Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane, while Jarrad Butler and Craig Ronaldson remain sidelined with injury.

Fresh from bagging a try in his first start of the season against the Cheetahs last time out, winger Niyi Adeolokun earns another start.

Eoin Griffin and Tom Farrell also start but new signing Pita Ahki is named as a replacement.

 

Talking points:

Cardiff head coach Danny Wilson is wary of a sting in the tail against Connacht, having seen his troops best the Irish province 17-15 in Galway in Round Four.

“We kickstarted our season off the back of the win against Connacht in September and they’ll be wanting to get revenge,” he said.

“That was a good win and a bit of a milestone for my time here, having not beating them away before then, it has to be matched with a home win.

“We’ve put pressure on ourselves to go after the home win and Championship-wise it will move us up to fourth, and into the qualification area that we want to be in.

 

Key Battle: Jarrod Evans v Jack Carty

Back in the fold after recovering from a broken nose, Evans has been given the nod at fly-half ahead of Gareth Anscombe in the battle to deputise for Shingler.

The 21-year-old will attempt to dictate the rhythm of Friday’s encounter at Cardiff Arms Park but will be going up against Connacht’s Jack Carty, who has kicked a steady three penalties and three conversions in his last three games.

 

Key Stat: Since losing to Ulster in Round Six, Connacht have won their last four matches in all competitions.

Did you know? The Blues have not beaten Connacht both home and away since the 2013-14 season.

 

Teams:

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees, Taufa’ao Filise; George Earle, Damian Welch; Macauley Cook, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Anton Peikrishvili, James Down, Josh Turnbull, Lewis Jones, Gareth Anscombe, Harri Millard

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Quinn Roux, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Steve Crosbie, Pita Ahki

 

TV: Live on BBC2 Wales at 7.30pm

Follow our live commentary from Cardiff Arms Park on Twitter at #CARvCON
Follow in game stats through our match centre.

 

 

Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has named his starting XV to face conference rivals Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday (K.O. 7:35pm Live on BBC 2 Wales). Connacht go into the fixture without Irish internationals Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane while Jarrad Butler and Craig Ronaldson remain on the injury list.

 

Niyi Adeoloukun who scored a decisive try in his first start of the season against the Cheetahs starts again on the wing. Matt Healy on the opposite wing and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran make up the rest of the back three. Eoin Griffin and Tom Farrell make up the centre pairing and while there is no starting position for new signing Pita Ahki, he is named among the replacements.

 

Jack Carty and Caolin Blade form the half back pairing with Marmion unavailable due to his involvement with the Irish squad. In the pack Dave Heffernan starts at hooker with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in at loose head and tighthead respectively. The experienced back row includes flankers Eoin McKeon and Jake Heenan with Captain John Muldoon in at number 8.

 

With four wins a row in all competitions, Out-half Jack Carty says Connacht need to maintain consistency in the next few games: “Over the last few games we have managed to get the results we have needed. Our focus now is on consistency away to Cardiff and next week against Zebre, that’s what we need to deliver. We need to put in the performances now to put ourselves in a strong position later in the season. We were beaten by Cardiff earlier in the season, but we will not be focusing on that. We will be concentrating on ourselves and our own game.”

#CARvCON

Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade,

(1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Steve Crosbie, Pita Ahki.

 

Our medical team have issued the following update ahead of the clash away to Cardiff Blues on Friday night  (K.O. at 7:35pm).

Prop:
JP Cooney has returned to training following his ankle injury in October.

Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.

 

Lock:
Gavin Thornbury has reintegrated into full training following his calf injury versus the Cheetahs.

Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Back Row:
Eoin McKeon will integrate fully into training this week following a recent hamstring injury.

Jake Heenan will integrate fully into training this week following a recent knee injury.

James Connolly is progressing well in his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in October and will return to training in the coming weeks.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return to training in early December.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Centre:
Eoin Griffin has returned to full training with the squad this week following his calf injury.

Craig Ronaldson is continuing his recovery from a calf injury and will return to training in December.

Peter Robb is rehabilitating from recent hip surgery and will be out of action until December.

 

Back Three:
Stacey Ili is progressing well in his recovery from a recent shoulder injury and will return to training in early December.

Rory Scholes had his appendix removed last week and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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