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Opponents In Focus - Connacht

16th November 2006

Connacht will be hoping to extend their good record against Welsh sides this season having already beaten the Ospreys and the Dragons in the Magners League when they take on the Blues at the Arms Park on Saturday (kick off 5.30pm).

However after their previous outing against Glasgow Warriors, two weeks ago, Connacht will be hoping to return to winning ways. Despite being behind by 20 points with 13 minutes remaining, they fought back bravely, scoring three tries in the process and thus securing two bonus points.

Connacht’s season began brightly with an away win in Galashiels to the Border Reivers, with tries from Paul Warwick and Gavin Williams. This was followed by a home win against the Ospreys by 15-10, with all 15 points coming from the boot of the prolific Mark McHugh.

A month ago Connacht overcame a strong Newport Gwent Dragons outfit by 16-9 and were unlucky not to take all the points in their 22-22 draw with Edinburgh rugby earlier in the season.

Connacht bolstered their squad during the summer with the signing of several quality forwards such as Brett Wilkinson, Ray Ofisa, Adrian Flavin and Brett Sturgess and with the addition of ex-London Irish captain, Ryan Strudwick, last week, they’ll be in confident form ahead of their clash with the Blues.

Strudwick joins Connacht after eight seasons with London Irish where he captained the side to the Powergen Cup in 2001. The 33 year old South African joined the irish exiles from Harlequins. Prior to that he played with Natal and has also played for South African Universities and the Barbarians. The 6'5", 17st 10lbs lock forward has signed a contract which will see him play for Connacht until the end of the season.

Having begun the season with an away fixture, Connacht came off a run of eight consecutive home matches. The fixture against Cardiff Blues is the third of four away matches in all competitions, as Connacht travel to European Champions Munster next week, in what has been a fiercely contested encounter in recent seasons. Following that Connacht return to European action against old rivals Montpellier, in a make or break tie in the European Challenge Cup, a competition they have flourished in in recent seasons.

With that in mind, it should be a more refreshed Connacht side who play at the Arms Park, after returning to action following a week off and with the contests to come, will be hoping to use the fixture as a springboard to success in the following weeks.