Cardiff Blues 36 - 30 Connacht
Fri 24 November 19:35 Cardiff Arms Park Att: 5,042 Ref: Craig Evans Guinness Pro14

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

Fri 24 Nov 2017 14:04 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht
Both sides go into the clash in good form, and will be seeking an edge as the race for Champions Cup qualification heats up.

Connacht currently sit one place and one point ahead of the Blues in fourth spot, and, with Cheetahs currently occupying third place, are in the automatic qualification spot in Conference A.

Danny Wilson’s side have won five out of the last seven fixtures in the PRO14 and Challenge Cup, having scored 15 tries in the last three home games in these competitions.

Following two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, Wales’ Capital Region have made 10 changes to the side that lost to Ospreys last week, with half back combination, Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans, recalled into the starting line-up.

Owen Lane, who makes his PRO14 debut, and Tom James both keep their places in the side, as Matthew Morgan slots in alongside the pair to complete the outside backs.

With Rey Lee-Lo currently on international duty with Samoa, and appears on the bench for the clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday, Garyn Smith and Willis Halaholo will combine in midfield.

Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees and Taufa’ao Filise are part of a new look front row, with the latter edging ever-closer to his 250th appearance for the region.

George Earle and Damian Welch continue their partnership at second row, with Nick Williams and Olly Robinson reintroduced to the back row alongside Macauley Cook.

Connacht, meanwhile, travel to the Welsh capital on the back of four consecutive victories, including wins over Conference A opponents Cheetahs and Munster.

John Muldoon captains the Galway-based province and is named in the back row alongside Eoin McKeon and Jake Heenan, who announced this week that he will be moving to a new club at the end of the season.

Connacht's top point scorer for the campaign, Jack Carty, lines-up at outside half, while Tiernan O'Halloran, who slotted a late match-winning drop goal at CAP last year, is handed the number 15 jersey.

Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane are all ruled out due to international call-ups.

What They Said

The Blues claimed a dramatic 15-17 win over Connacht at Sportsground earlier in the season, and Danny Wilson expects Kieran Keane's side to arrive at the Welsh capital desperate for pay-back.

"Every time we play Connacht, and it's not a cliché, it's a real tough fixture," said Wilson.

"They're a real gritty bunch who are used to playing in all conditions, which obviously comes from their home venue, and it was a big win for us down there in poor conditions.

"We kick started our season off the back of that win and they'll be wanting to get revenge.

"We lost to them at home last year, and although that was a good win and a bit of a milestone for my time here, having not beating them away before then, it has to be matched with a home win.

"We've put pressure on ourselves to go after the home win and Championship-wise it will move us up to fourth, and into the qualification area that we want to be in, and challenging to be in, for Europe next year.

"There's lots to play for, lots of motivation and it's a Friday night game at home. Hopefully off the back of a bonus point win against Zebre, and a really pleasing performance, we can go again and do the same.

"Right this minute now, there's a real scrap for the places there where one or two wins and the whole Conference picture can change very quickly. 

"We're aware of that and therefore have to pick up our wins where apparent, especially at home in a targeted game for us, but against a good opposition and one we know is going to be a tough test."
Meanwhile, Macauley Cook insists the Cardiff Blues head into Friday's clash with confidence and motivation following their bonus point win over Zebre last time out.

“It’s a massive game and we’ve spoke this week about what is at stake if we beat them. We can climb above in the table and get in to those European places.
“We know how important this game is but we also know how good our form has been in the league. We’ve had a good week’s training and just need to turn up focused and get the job done.
“We’re confident and very positive going into Friday and hopefully we can produce another performance like at home against with Zebre with good line-speed and attack.”
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees (capt), Taufa'ao Filise, George Earle, Damian Welch, Macauley Cook, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Anton Peikrishvili, James Down, Josh Turnbull, Lewis Jones, Gareth Anscombe, Harri Millard

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (C)

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Steve Crosbie, Pita Ahki