Connacht Rugby have announced the team that will face Toulouse this Saturday at the formidable Stade Ernest-Wallon (kick-off 16.40 local time)
Paul O’ Donohoe comes into the side at scrum-half to replace the injured Frank Murphy, who underwent surgery on his groin earlier this week as Ray Ofisa returns at open-side flanker and Niall O’Connor starts at out-half in the remaining changes from last weeks harrowing defeat to Aironi.
That defeat was their thirteenth in a row and that losing streak is unlikely to change against a Toulouse side that needs a win in order to retain hopes of a quarter-final spot.
Injuries have left Connacht desperately exposed in some key areas and their lack of strength in depth has been highlighted time and again. Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Dave Gannon, Johnny O’Connor, Brian Tuohy, Mark McCrea and James Loxton are all missing from this weekend’s squad. You only have to look at the bench to see inexperienced faces have been drafted in as cover for injured players.
It might not all be doom and gloom as Connacht’s record capped player Michael Swift is excited at the prospect of taking on the four-time European champions in their back-yard. “It is not the worst fixture in our current form. I see it as a positive,” he says. “The expectations are probably not high, the pressure will be off, and I can’t wait to play in Toulouse – it will be experience to savour.”
Toulouse leads Pool 6 by a solidity point and will view the game against Connacht as a potential bonus point win. The hosts convincingly beat Connacht 36-10 at the Sportsground in November and truth be told it could have been far more, but for a resounding second half display from the Irish province.
Connacht are sure give their all in this, the second of a David-verses-Goliath style encounter, but Toulouse are expected to run out comfortable winners.
Verdict: Toulouse 10-14 point win
15 Gavin Duffy (C) 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo 13 Kyle Tonetti 12 Dave McSharry 11 Tiernan O’Halloran 10 Niall O’Connor 09 Paul O’Donohoe
01 Brett Wilkinson 02 Adrian Flavin 03 Dylan Rogers 04 Michael Swift 05 Mike McCarthy 06 John Muldoon 07 Ray Ofisa 08 George Naoupu
16 Ethienne Reynecke17 Denis Buckley18 Stewart Maguire19 Mick Kearney20 Eoin McKeon21 Dave Moore22 Miah Nikora23 Henry Fa’afili