Seven changes to Connacht squad to face Lions in South Africa
Emirates Lions v Connacht, Emirates Airline Park, Saturday 3.05 – Live on RTÉ2 & Premier Sports
Connacht will be looking to erase the disappointment of last weekend’s second leg loss to Leinster in Europe through performance as they move up tournaments to the United Rugby Championship (URC). The manner of the loss will have aroused the deepest regrets.
Andy Friend has made seven changes to this squad, but it’s a positional change that’s perhaps the most interesting. Connacht’s top try scorer in URC Mack Hansen (six) swaps wing for fullback where, given the range, his footwork, pace and running lines could be a threat major offensive. He also has a nuanced kicking game as befits someone who can play in the semis as well.
Hansen forms a powerful back three with John Porch and Alex Wootton while Tom Daly’s return in defense sees Bundee Aki move one place to outside centre. In these Leinster matches, Connacht have demonstrated their ability to shred defenses and score tries, given any sort of decent platform and that’s what they’ll be looking for in the highveld again.
There are five changes up front with Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier arriving at the accessory, Oisín Dowling and Niall Murray forming a new second line partnership and Paul Boyle reinstated in the middle of the back line.
The Lions pose a formidable challenge in the set piece from scrimmage and lineout, use a kicking game that defends territory and possess serious speed at scale. They have won their last four home games against pounding northern hemisphere opposition Cardiff (37-10) and the Ospreys (45-15) while finishing on the right side of closer clashes against Munster (23- 21) and Edinburgh (15-9) .
They traveled to the Sharks last weekend and lost 37-10. Connacht head coach Friend said: “‘We’ve had a very good week so far in South Africa, and although the disappointment of last week lingers, there’s still a great feeling of hope. optimism in the group that we can finish these last games. on a top.
“(This) game brings additional challenges like the altitude, and the results so far have shown how difficult it is for European teams to win here. It is therefore up to us not to give them a hold on the game and to (take) our chances when we have them.
It’s a good test for some of Connacht’s promising young players, as well as the team, mentally and physically. The Lions are the five-point favourites, but if Connacht play uninhibited it could make for a heartbreaking contest.
EMIRATES LIONS: Q Horn; R Maxwane, W Simelane, B Odendaal (captain), E van der Merwe; J Hendrikse, M van den Berg; S Sithole, PJ Botha, R Dreyer; Schoeman R, Nothnagel R; F Horn, V Tshituka, E Tshituka.
Replacements: J Visagie, JP Smith, C Sadie, R Venter, S Sangweni, A Warner, M Rass, T Swanepoel.
TO KNOW : M Hansen; J Porch, B Aki, T Daly, A Wootton; J Carty, C Blade; Dr Buckley, Dr Heffernan, J Aungier; O Dowling, N Murray; C Prendergast, J Butler (captain), P Boyle.
Replacements: D Tierney-Martin, J Duggan, G McGrath, L Fifita, C Oliver, K Marmion, C Fitzgerald, S Bolton.
Arbitrator: C Evans (Wales).