Injuries and unavailability have once again forced the hand of Connacht Head Coach Eric Elwood into making four changes to his side that travels to Cardiff Arms Park to take on the Blues Friday night. (7.30pm)
Tiernan O’Halloran, Kyle Tonetti and Mike Kearney are all out through injury and Robbie Henshaw is with the Ireland squad this week.
Henshaw’s place will be taken by captain Gavin Duffy who last week earned his 150th cap coming off the bench in their 22-10 defeat of Ospreys at the Sportsground. Fetu’u Vainokolo replaces O’Halloran on the wing and Andrew Browne steps in for Kearney in the second row.
The big news, however, is the surprise debut of 27 year old Brian Murphy at inside centre. The former AIL Galwegians player was signed last year by Connacht and, the Galway native has represented Ireland at Ireland at Schools, Under-21 and A level.
Cardiff Blues also have their own injury worries and give a first start of the season to full back Chris Czekaj after the former Wales international injured his foot in a pre-season friendly. Unavailable through injury is a long list of players including Josh Navidi, captain Andries Pretorius and Tom James. The likes of Jamie Roberts are away with the International side so that in itself is a massive plus for Connacht.
Elwood’s team moved up one place to ninth in the table after last weeks win while Blues stayed in seventh with their 6-3 win over Edinburgh in Scotland.
Connacht looked to be back to their best last week but they will have to overcome their shortcomings when on the road. Lack of tries away from home has been a sore point all season and, while the were the better team away to Scarlets, only Zebre has fallen to the Westerners.
However, Connacht can get the better of the Blues at Cardiff Arms Park if they can stave off more injuries and get former Blues out-half Dan Parks on the ball as much as possible.
Cardiff Blues XV
(15-9) Chris Czekaj; Owen Williams, Richard Smith, Gavin Evans (c), Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones
(8-1) Robin Copeland, Rory Watts-Jones, Michael Paterson; James Down, Macauley Cook; Benoit Bourrust, Kristian Dacey, Taufa’ao Filise
(16-23) Rhys Williams, Nathan Trevett, Scott Andrews, Luke Hamilton, Thomas Young, Liam Davies, Ceri Sweeney, Jason Tovey
(15-9)Gavin Duffy (captain), Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Brian Murphy, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion
(1-8) Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White; Michael Swift, Andrew Browne; John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Denis Buckley, Ronan Loughney, Mick Kearney, TJ Anderson, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Matthew Jarvis