Connacht v Scarlets match preview
The Sportsground hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for table toppers the Scarlets for a number of seasons, and with home side Connacht returning off the back of a confidence boosting away win, it’s likely to get even harder.
Connacht have made changes to the team that beat new boys Zebra, bringing in strength to their front row and centre. Their backrow has had enforced changes, with Andrew Browne getting a first start in over a year on his comeback from injury.
The Scarlets have brought in young talent Samson Lee at tight head and the up and coming Jordan Williams to full back. Both fully deserve a chance in the Scarlets shirt and with the weather out in Galway known for its blustery conditions, it will be interesting to see if it is the metronomic Williams who takes the kicks at goal, or whether Priestland retains that responsibility.
In form wing Fenby gets a surprise rest but head coach Easterby has seen fit to stick with his Welsh stars, where at centre Williams and Davies are finally getting the chance to form a regional partnership.
McSharry has been brought into the centre for Connacht, and with their strengthened front row they will be hoping to bring him in to influence the game. Connacht are renowned for having a solid and disciplined forwards pack that stays strong for the full 80 minutes, and with the Scarlets benching many of their first team starters, they will be looking to press the advantage.
The Scarlets will be hoping that players such as Lee, Reynolds and Murphy fully grasp the opportunity they’ve been given to start, as competition for a shirt in the west Wales region ramps up. Despite not fielding many first choice players in the pack, they still have experienced players such as Rees and Turnbull to look to, which should see them getting the platform to release their backs.
There’s no doubting the Scarlets on paper have by far the better backs and defensively Connacht are going to have to be on the top of their game to stop a backline that are in scoring form. With such players as North, Williams and Davies to call upon and complimented by the likes of Priestland and Williams, the Scarlets will be favourite to cut loose if they are allowed the possession.
Depending fully on weather conditions, this will most likely be a gritty affair, with the forwards grinding out a hard earned win. No team can safely go to the Sportsground and expect an easy match and Connacht will be determined to keep their winning run at home against the Scarlets firmly on track. The visitors will be doing all that they can to finally come out on the right side of the score sheet to get the win that will take them to three from three and on their current form, they could very well do just that.
Connacht: Gavin Duffy (capt); Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Ethienne Reynecke, Nathan White; Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy; Andrew Browne, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, David Gannon, Johnny O’Connor, Dave Moore, Matthew Jarvis, Robbie Henshaw.
Scarlets: Jordan Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies (capt), Scott Williams, Nick Reynolds; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Matthew Rees, Samson Lee, Sione Timani, Richard Kelly, Josh Turnbull, Johnathan Edwards,Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Peter Edwards, Deacon Manu, Jake Ball, Rob McCusker, Aled Davies, Aled Thomas, Gareth Maule.