Connacht v Toulouse,Venue: The Sportsground, Galway.Kick-off: 6pm
Front up, Rise up! Heineken Cup rugby has finally arrived in Galway City.
When the draw was made for the pool stages of the Heineken Cup, one match stood out from the rest – from a Connacht point of view – and a completely sold-out Sportsground is testament to the palpable excitement around the city.
The Irish province’s 100th game in Europe is aptly tied in with their debut home tie in the Heineken Cup against the competitions most successful side and French giants, Toulouse.
The four times winners of the competition , make their way to the Sportsground this Saturday to take on minnows Connacht, in a David verses Goliath style encounter. However, Connacht proved they can compete with the best, after a narrow, but frustrating 27-17 defeat away to Harlequins last Friday night.
The French giants needed a late try from full-back Clement Poitrenaud to record a hard-earned 21-17 win at home over Gloucester and Connacht are only too well aware of the quality Toulouse have at their disposal. Neither, World Cup Player of the Tournament Thierry Dusatoir, nor joint leading try scorer Vincent Clerc, will feature against Connacht, in fact they have not featured for their club since the national side’s ill-fated game against the All-Blacks.
As you can imagine, Connacht and Toulouse have never met before in any competition but the French side has lost its last three Heineken Cup group games on Irish soil. Ulster (once) and Leinster (twice) have defeated the red and black, their only victory coming in 2001 win over Ulster.
The Connacht side sees just one change from the team that came close to victory last weekend against Harlequins with Dave Gannon joining Michael Swift in the second row and Ray Ofisa moving to the bench. Mike McCarthy will take his place at blindside flanker.
9,000 rugby fans, the majority of them Connacht supporters are expected to pack into the Sportsground to cheer on the underdogs with enthusiasm. However, the aristocrats of French rugby are overflowing with World class talent and a moment of that famous French flair is all that’s needed to put Connacht to the sword.
Verdict: Toulouse by 9-12 points.
For more betting on Connacht v Toulouse click here.
(15-9) Gavin Duffy, Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Brian Tuohy, Miah Nikora, Paul O’Donohoe
(1-8) Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, Dave Ganno, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, George Naoupu
Replacements (16-23) Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, Dylan Rogers, TJ Anderson, Ray Ofisa, Frank Murphy, Niall O’Connor, Henry Fa’afili