Connacht rugby makes three changes in personnel to their team as they welcome defending RaboDirectPRO 12 champions Ospreys to the Sportsground on Friday night. (7.45pm)
Returning to the starting XV are full-back Robbie Henshaw and flankers John Muldoon and Willie Faloon.
Both Muldoon and Faloon have been out with long-term injuries while Henshaw was on international duty with the Ireland U-20’s where he earned his first cap in last weekend’s dramatic one point win over England.
Despite Connacht’s 25-15 loss to Scarlets last week, Kyle Tonetti has retained the number 12 jersey where he partners Eoin Griffin. Club captain Gavin Duffy has to settle for a place on the replacements bench.
Connacht lie in tenth place in the Rabo table and, the Heineken Cup aside, Eric Elwood’s team has not enjoyed the best of seasons so far. Their away form has been brutal, beating only Zebre to add to their three home victories.
However, the players can’t be faulted for effort in almost every game played. It’s just the same old story of strength and depth lacking in the squad. Duffy, Muldoon, Tonetti and a host of other first-team regulars have all occupied the treatment table for large periods of the season and this has denied Connacht a real chance of progression, domestically.
Ospreys on the other hand are enjoying a mid-season revival of sorts. Steve Tandy’s men are on a five game unbeaten run, which includes going to Ravenhill last week and beating Ulster. This rich vein of form comes after a very slow start to the campaign where they lost three from three on the bounce and, now, the Welsh side find themselves catapulted into the top four just one point behind third-placed Leinster.
Luckily for Connacht, Ospreys are without many of their first-team squad due to international commitments and injuries. However, Alun Wyn Jones is not among them and the Welsh international starts as captain in the second-row.
Connacht’s last home win was a lackluster performance against Zebre and the Westerners must improve vastly if they are to stop the juggernaut Ospreys team who are hell-bent on making up for lost time.
(15-9) Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Tonetti, Danie Poolman; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion
(1-8) Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (captain); Michael Swift, Mick Kearney, John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Gavin Duffy.
(15-9) Richard Fussell; Tom Habberfield, Tom Isaacs, Jonathan Spratt, Ben John; Matthew Morgan, Kahn Fotuali’i
(1-8) Duncan Jone, Scott Baldwin, Cai Griffiths; Alun Wyn Jones (Capt), James King; Joe Bearman, Sam Lewis, Morgan Allen.
(16-23) Matthew Dwyer, Marc Thomas, Dmitri Arhip, Lloyd Peers, Jonathan Thomas, Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, Rhys Webb, Ross Jones