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Referee: Alan Lewis (IRFU, 37th League game)
Newport Gwent Dragons’ only win in their last six matches in all competitions was 20-6 at home to Munster in the Magners League on 26 November. Dragons have won their last three games at Rodney Parade, whilst the last seven Irish sides to visit the venue have all lost.
Connacht have lost their last eight encounters in all competitions since their 16-13 victory over Bayonne on 15 October. The Irishmen have won just once away from home in the Magners League since April 2008: 19-17 at Glasgow on 17 September 2010.
The last five clashes between the two sides have all been won by the home team on the day. Connacht won 40-17 against Dragons in round one but have not achieved a season’s double over the Welshmen since 2007/08.
|Dragons team news
There are a handful of chances from the side which faced the Scarlets last weekend. Jonathan Evans comes in at scrum half, whilst new signing Mike Petri is on the bench. Locks Rob Sidoli and Adam Jones both return to the starting line up, whilst Lewis Evans also starts at flanker.
The front row trio of Hugh Gustafson, Ben Castle and captain Tom Willis all start, whilst Gavin Thomas and Toby Faletau retain their places. Luke Charteris drops to the bench where he is joined by the returning Andrew Coombs. Steve Jones, Pat Palmer and Phil Price provide the front row cover.
In the backs Will Harries continues at full back, Adam Hughes and Aled Brew fill the wing berths, and Tom Riley partners Ashley Smith in the centre. Jason Tovey is the outside half, with Pat Leach and Mathew Jones among the replacements.
The Men of Gwent last faced Connacht in the opening fixture of this season, when they were soundly beaten 40-17 in Galway, but they have a strong home record against the Irish province, having won six of the previous seven encounters between the two sides played at Rodney Parade, most recently winning 23-10 in October 2009.
Dan Lyidate misses out after picking up an injury at Wales fitness testing, angering Coach Paul Turner.
“It’s a disgrace, especially as we’re a region with not great resources,” Turner told the South Wales Argus. “Our two players have been tested and one of them has got injured, Dan has come in with a neck injury, he can’t move it.
“It means he’s almost certainly out of the Connacht match now, and it’s our most important game of the season. They had him in there and though his neck wasn’t right they’ve messed around with it and made it worse when we distinctly said our players should not be tested this week.
“Dan has gone down there with a couple of knocks [he’s also got shoulder and knee problems] but he’s been strength tested and come back unfit.
“We have basically got shafted and it will have big implications because of Thursday’s match when we said we had to be looked after because we had a game earlier in the week than anyone else.
“I’ve got e-mails which were sent about this and I’m fuming about it. Dan is probably our best player, yet Scarlets players went there on Monday and they weren’t tested.”
A WRU spokesman denied the claims saying: “While both Dan and Toby were invited to the WRU national centre of excellence at the Vale of Glamorgan for the testing session, Dan was medically screened and declared unfit to take any part in the testing.
“Toby completed one test from the five involved, but this was solely an anaerobic test lasting just 125 seconds which involved running for 450 metres.
“There should be no suggestion that this test should in any way damage the preparations of a professional athlete so far out from his next match.
“Fellow Dragons players Will Harries. Aled Brew and Luke Charteris were all also invited to the testing session and they each joined Dan in sitting out all of the tests.”
DRAGONS TEAM FOR CONNACHT:
W Harries, A Hughes, T Riley, A Smith, A Brew, J Tovey, J Evans; H Gustafson, T Willis (c), B Castle, A Jones, R Sidoli, L Evans, G Thomas, T Faletau.
Replacements: S Jones, P Palmer, P Price, L Charteris, A Coombs, M Jones, M Petri, P Leach.
|Connacht team news:|
The Connacht squad sees a number of positional changes and two personnel changes. Sean Cronin, back from an IRFU imposed break (under the Player Welfare Management Programme), replaces Adrian Flavin at hooker in the starting lineup. Mike McComish has recovered from the illness that ruled him out of last weekend’s clash against Leinster and he replaces Shane Conneely on the bench.
The rest of the pack remains unchanged with Academy star Eoin McKeon retaining his place at number 8 following an impressive display last weekend. The reshuffled backine sees the adaptable Ian Keatley move to fullback with former New Zealand Youths Troy Nathan, who qualifies for Ireland through residency, shift to the wing. Nathan has 64 caps for Connacht and has shown his versatility having played in every position in the backline for the Province. Academy graduate Eoin Griffin moves to outside centre and he is joined on the wing by Fionn Carr, with Brian Tuohy providing cover from the bench.
15 Ian Keatley
14 Troy Nathan
13 Eoin Griffin
12 Keith Matthews
11 Fionn Carr
10 Miah Nikora
09 Cillian Willis
01 Brett Wilkinson
02 Sean Cronin
03 Jamie Hagan
04 Michael Swift
05 Michael McCarthy
06 Andrew Browne
07 Johnny O’Connor
08 Eoin McKeon
16 Adrian Flavin
17 Rodney Ah You
18 Dylan Rogers
19 Bernie Upton
20 Mike McComish
21 Frank Murphy
22 Niva Ta’auso
23 Brian Tuohy