Connacht 15 - 17 Cardiff Blues
Sat 23 September 15:15 Sportsground Att: 4,659 Ref: Marius Mitrea Guinness Pro14

Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Sat 23 Sep 2017 13:32 Preview: Connacht v Cardiff Blues
Typically tough weather conditions are expected at Galway, which will be a challenge in itself for a Cardiff Blues side, who usually look to play expansive, attacking rugby.

Danny Wilson’s side have shown steady progression in their performances over the past fortnight, suffering a narrow one-point loss to a strong Glasgow Warriors outfit at Cardiff Arms Park last week.

Connacht, meanwhile, sit five points ahead of their opponents in Conference A, having secured a solitary victory against Southern Kings and defeats to Glasgow Warriors and to Dragons at Rodney Parade last week.

Kristian Dacey, one of the Blues’ stand-out players in 2016/17, makes his first appearance of the season as one of three changes to the front row. 

The international hooker, who played a part in Wales’ summer tour before being called up to the British and Irish Lions squad as injury cover, returns to action following a groin injury.

Brad Thyer is promoted from the bench, and is also joined by Taufa’ao Filise, who missed last week’s clash due to a knee injury.

Wilson has kept faith with the rest of his team from last week, meaning centre Rey Lee-Lo is in line to make his 50th appearance for the region.

Lloyd Williams takes over from Matthew Rees as captain, while short term loanee, Olly Robinson, could make his debut off the bench.

Connacht have made a host of changes from last week’s defeat to Dragons, with summer signing, Andrew Deegan, set for his debut for the province at outside half.

Kieran Marmion returns to partner Deegan at half-back, while there are first starts of the season for hooker Dave Heffernan and centre Craig Ronaldson, who links-up with the danger man, Bundee Aki.

What They Said

Wilson acknowledges the challenges facing his side this afternoon, but is hoping the Blues can replicate Dragons' performance against Kieran Keane's side.

"We had a good look at Connacht over their first three games and they're their usual selves," said Wilson.

"A gritty side at home who play a fair amount of rugby, which Pat [Lam] has left that imprint in them and they're playing from quite deep.

"I believe they left two or three players who had played the first few games out of the trip to face Dragons, but we're predicting some of those guys might come back in. 

"It was a good win for Dragons to beat Connacht at home and hopefully we can follow suit and beat them away.

"At the moment, the weather prediction is pretty savage so we've been working on a gameplay to deal as much with Connacht as with the weather. But you know that when you go out there, that's probably a given."
Meanwhile, back row Josh Turnbull remains positive about his Cardiff Blues' improved performances but has called for his side to show their competitve edge at a tough away venue.

"The boys are pretty positive to be honest. We've progressively got better over the past three games," said Turnbull.

"Obviously the Leinster game got away from us in the last 13 minutes and then last week I thought we had a better performance and thought we probably should have won that.

"We put ourselves in the right position throughout the game, put pressure on them, scored a good try and that's something we've been building on over the past couple of weeks.

"This week is about preparing ourselves for another tough game out in Connacht and hopefully we can come away with the victory.

"The way they play the game make them a threat from all over the park. It probably tees us up pretty well to play Connacht, who play the ball from anywhere, from kick offs they run from their own 22, they play wide. 

"But if we're accurate and bring our defensive game, which has been getting better with the introduction of Shaun here, and if we bring that competitive edge in the contact area then I can't see why we can't come out of there with a victory.

"Howling winds, pouring down with rain, you know, it's not a nice place to play, and it's probably going to be no different on Friday. We got to put the conditions behind us - we've prepared for them, we just got to be mindful of them and prepare ourselves the best we can to go out there and play."

Connacht: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Rory Scholes; Andrew Deegan, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Stacey Ili.

Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, George Earle, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Matthew Morgan