Connacht Eagles tackle Newport in their final British and Irish Cup Pool 4 fixture at Dubarry Park on Saturday afternoon. The Welsh club pipped the developing Connacht squad 18-14 in Wales courtesy of a late, late try but the host province will be optimistic of avenging that narrow loss and, in the process, secure second place, at the Athlone venue. Kick off time is 2pm which will enable supporters to then watch the Heineken Cup action on the big screens at The Bounty afterwards.
A club with a long and chequered history, Newport (like neighbours and rivals Cross Keys ) are now more or less a feeder club for regional side Newport Gwent Dragons. Their form has been inconsistent and they currently lie mid-table in the Principality Premiership.
On Saturday, however, they will (just like the Eagles ) look to a primarily youthful squad captained by seasoned tighthead prop Gethin Robinson. Backrower Sam Waldron is another experienced operator who will be called on to show leadership to forwards Ross Coombs, Ryan Prosser, and company. Scott Sneddon and Tom Handcock have shared the outhalf duties while James Leadbetter has switched between fullback and scrumhalf for the visitors, who led Cross Keys 16-0 last week but were then fortunate to eke a 27-27 draw at Rodney Parade where the Newport have, over the years, claimed the prized scalps of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand! Alas, since the advent of professionalism in rugby union, Newport is not the feared force they once were.
Connacht Eagles will need to be purposeful and belligerent to impose themselves on the visitors. At time of writing, the squad is not announced and Mick Kearney and Eoghan Grace could well be on Heineken Cup duty against Zebre at the Sportsground on Friday night. Nevertheless, there is an exciting and improving blend in the squad.
Connacht have flair and potential aplenty in this fledgling side. If they match that with workrate, commitment, and focus, they can account for Newport and take the runner-up berth behind runaway leaders Newcastle Falcons. It is likely to be a lively, physical battle but if the Eagles dare to be the more expansive outfit and keep their discipline, then they can fly.
Note: Connacht season ticket holders will be admitted free to this match. Kick off time is 2pm and supporters can watch all the key Heineken Cup matches on the big screens in The Bounty afterwards!