Connacht’s promising start to their RaboDirect Pro 12 campaign came to standstill at Edinburgh last week but should return to winning ways this Friday at the Sportsground against an injury-plagued Newport Gwent Dragons who lept off the bottom of the table courtesy of an away win over Treviso last week, their first points of the season (KO, 7.30pm)
The Dragons started the league with two away defeats to Irish opposition in the shape of Munster and Leinster respectively and now, yet again, face another Irish team away from home for the third time in four weeks.
Last week’s win corresponded with their first home fixture, but victory was costly. A raft of injuries has hit the squad and Head Coach Darren Edwards has been forced to draft in a regional player in Geraint O’ Driscoll.
Pat Leach, Mike Poole, Tom Riley and Wayne Evans are struggling to be fit for Friday’s clash while Ben Castle, Jamie Smith and Will Harris are still unavailable. Some positive news is centre Ashley Smith could return in time for the trip to Galway.
A massive blow for Connacht ahead of the game was the news that influential N0. 8 George Naoupu could be out for the foreseeable future after tearing medial ligaments in his knee. Although scans have yet to reveal the full extent of the injury, he’s expected to be out for a number of weeks at the least and the coaching staff, fear the worst for the long term.
Good news however, on prop Rodney Ah you and hooker Ethienne Reynecke, both are expected to be fit after the front rowers picked up knocks in the defeat to Edinburgh,
The Dragons have not won at the Galway Venue since 2004 and the Welsh side are winless, away from home, since last February. They have failed to beat any Irish opposition in their last six attempts and further compounded by injuries suggest this tie is Connacht’s for the taking despite being without Naoupu.
Verdict: Connacht by 3-5