The league leaders visit Cardiff Arms Park on Friday night looking to extend their eight-match unbeaten run, while the home side are looking for any kind of win we can can get. After last weekend’s stronger showing at Ospreys, there’s a bit more positivity going into the game than in previous weeks.
Connacht have not taken their foot off the gas since beating us 36-31 in Galway during our Irish tour, beating Ospreys, Brive and Munster, amongst others, on their march to the summit of the Pro12. A few missed kicks from Rhys Patchell, coupled with some suspect defending, did for us on that day, although we did snatch a late bonus point. Those late efforts are becoming a trend against Connacht, after we beat them at home last season courtesy of an 87th minute try from Joaquin Tuculet and a Rhys Patchell conversion. Whatever happens, it’ll be a tough and close game on Friday.
Having said that, there’s plenty to build on that could push us to a win. The defensive effort against Ospreys was huge, players putting their bodies on the line and keeping the opposition out for 16 or 17 phase attacks. If we can play a bit more with ball in hand, then we could really put on a show. Big if though.
Team news-wise, there’s movement in the back three as Alex Cuthbert recovers from his injury in time for Blaine Scully to suffer from one, while Rhys Patchell returns from his concussion to start at full-back, meaning Jarrod Evans retains the fly-half spot. In the forwards, Ethan Lewis swaps with Kristian Dacey at hooker, while Jarrod Hoeata and James Down do the same at lock. Also, Sam Warburton joins Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins on the injured flanker list, meaning Macauley Cook starts at blindside, with Josh Turnbull on the open.
It’ll be a tough test against an in-form Connacht side, and the defence will have to be in top form against the free-scoring Irish side, but I’m confident we can get the points on the board needed if we can keep the opposition out. Another 100% effort like last week and the results will have to come eventually, come on Cardiff!
Cardiff record vs Connacht: W 19 D2 L 4
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLL
Connacht form: WLWWWWWWWW
Cardiff top try scorer(s): Tom James, Josh Turnbull (4)
Connacht top try scorer (s): Danie Poolman, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Tiernan O’Halloran, Kieran Marmion, Matt Healy (3)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (105)
Connacht top points scorer: Jack Carty (58)
Andrew Brace (IRFU) – Back to having impartial referees, not! Brace refereed our opening game battering of Zebre so we have a 100% record of him in charge at CAP. Unfortunately no sign of Leighton Hodges on the line to wind up Pat Lam though.