Connacht name same XV for trip to Italian new boysSeptember 7, 2012 - 7:00am
Connacht coach Eric Elwood has kept faith with his starting fifteen for the province’s first RaboDirect PRO12 away game of the season against new Italian franchise Zebre at Stadio Aprille XXV, Parma this evening, Friday (6:05pm, Irish time).
Despite their 13-9 defeat to Cardiff Blues last Saturday – a game punctuated by a series of unforced errors by the home side – Elwood has decided his starting fifteen deserve a second chance to make amends.
To this end, Connacht will be looking to convert last week's possession and opportunities into points this time round. Indeed, despite crossing the try-line twice in the first half, handling errors denied the home side the vital scores which would have made all the difference playing into the strong wind.
That said, Connacht – who sorely felt the absence of a number of injured players, including out-half Dan Parks – did rescue a losing bonus point from that match, after being 13-0 down at one stage of the contest.
While there are no changes to the starting fifteen from last week, there are two changes on the bench with Nathan White taking the place of Finlay Bealham and Frank Murphy stepping in for Dave Moore.
For their part, Zebre lost their inaugural outing in the PRO12 away to Dragons last week on a scoreline of 37-6 – the Italians’ points coming from the boot of Luciano Orquera. On this evidence, though, Connacht should have the guile and experience to win this one but that is by no means a given.
For one, a weakened Connacht have lost their last two matches in this competition to Glasgow Warriors (last season) and Cardiff Blues while their only victory on the road since round one of last season was a 27-19 at the Dragons last March.
Although, obviously, these two sides have never met before, Connacht have won just one previous RaboDirect PRO12 game in Italy, that an 11-9 victory at Treviso in September of last year. They subsequently lost their other away game to Italian side, Aironi 20-6 in January.
Connacht: Gavin Duffy; Tiernan O'Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Mata Fifita, Fetu'u Vainikolo; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney; Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy; John Muldoon, Johnny O'Connor, George Naoupu. Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, Nathan White, Dave Gannon, Willie Faloon, Frank Murphy, Matthew Jarvis, Robbie Henshaw.
• The match is live on TG4.