Pressure is mounting on Connacht to produce a winning result when they host Llanelli Scarlets at the Galway Sportsground (6.30pm ) in tonights final match before the break for the Guinness internationals.
With only one win from seven matches, Connacht’s inconsistent form sees them once again propping up the bottom of the Magners League table, and a home victory is essential to ensure they do not lose touch with the pack. Coach Michael Bradley says Connacht’s backs are to the wall. “It is now becoming a huge game for us. With only one win in the Magners, it is important we get another. We are better than our results have shown in terms of championship points. Last week we had a championship point to take with a couple of minutes to go, having gained momentum in the game. Then we coughed up a soft try which took everything away from the night’s work.
“Consistency is the drum that all coaches will be beating and we don’t have it at the moment and it is causing us problems.”
With the exception of Ray Ofisa, Bradley has no injury worries and is expected to make a couple of changes from the team that lost to Glasgow last week. Robbie Morris is likely to come in for Jamie Hagan in the front row, while No 8 Mike McComish is due a start having returned from injury. This will result in a move for captain John Muldoon to the blindside, with Mike McCarthy returning to the second row alongside Bernie Upton.
Llanelli, while not enjoying the best start to the league, have gained some momentum with two good wins in the Heineken Cup which they followed up with a victory over the Dragons. A well balanced footballing side, Llanelli will travel without the internationals just named in Warren Gatland’s Wales squad. However they have sufficient strength in depth to cause Connacht problems, not least outhalf Rhys Priestland who comes in for the injured Stephen Jones. He kicked the Scarlets to a 18-3 derby win over Dragons last week, and he can be relied on to punish Connacht indiscretions. Their pack boasts a useful front row in Iestyn Thomas, Kevn Owens and Fijian Deacon Manu, while the backrow of Simon Easterby, Richie Pugh and David Lyons will exploit any weaknesses up front. It is another big challenge for Connacht, but if they can produce a consistent 80 minutes, a victory is quite possible.
Connacht (probable ) V Llanelli: G Duffy, T Nathan, N Ta’auso, K Matthews, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M McCarthy, B Upton, J Muldoon (cpt ), J O’Connor, M McComish. Replacements, A Flavin, J Hagan, M Swift, A Browne, C O’Loughlin, M Nikora, L Bibo.