Connacht hoping to take advantage of depleted Ospreys

CONNACHT will face Samoa skipper Filiso Levi in their Magners League clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday (2.15pm).

As Connacht prepare for the match without the injured Michael McCarthy, Levi is ready to make his first start for the Welsh side following a move from Japan.

The unfortunate McCarthy broke a bone in his foot in training earlier in the week, and he will be out of action for 10 weeks.

Daniel Riordan, Conor Muldoon, David Gannon and Mel Deane have all been called up to strengthen the team since Connacht beat Dax the last time out in January but coaching director, Michael Bradley, is still fearful of the threat posed by the Welsh side.

“They’ve a lot of strength in depth and despite missing some players with the Six Nations underway, they’ll still be able to field a very strong side,” he said.

“We’ve two matches during the Six Nations against the Ospreys and Cardiff, and we know that we’ll be facing some depleted sides. With that in mind, it’s an opportunity for us to get some championship points.

“They’re currently lying in second in the table and they’ve shown some fine form in the Heineken Cup too which has got them to the quarter finals, so we know we’ll have a very tough game on Sunday.”

Meanwhile Ireland’s newest international, Tom Court, will not have much time to reflect on his short debut stint in Rome as a replacement when he will line out against the Dragons in Newport when the Magners League recommences this weekend.

Australia-born Court is the only Ireland front-liner released by Declan Kidney with Rory Best, Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris all held back.

However, seven players who were in the Ireland A squad are also included in Matt Williams’ 25-man panel for the Sunday afternoon game.

Back in action is scrum-half Cillian Willis while lock Carlo del Fava has been released by Italy to gain more game time after his brief appearance as a replacement against Ireland last weekend.

Scotland’s Simon Danielli is also back in Ulster action as he seeks more game time following a knee injury.

“It’s all about refocusing,” said Williams, who believes that Ulster can make a big impression in the run-in for the title.

“There are 35 points available until the end of the season, and we are only 10 behind, so we have everything to play for.”

With Best resting, Williams has named young openside David Pollock as skipper with Ballymena’s Chris Henry, having recovered from shoulder ligament problems, to start at number eight.

There are slight injury doubts over Matt McCullough who is due to take his place at blindside and if he does not make it then veteran Kieron Dawson will step in.

Dragons squad: W Evans, A Black, P Dollman, T Willis, G Webb, A Smith, R Thomas, R Gomer Davies, M Thomas, R Fussell, N Hall, R Parks, D Lydiate, J Tovey, H Macdonald, K Morgan, L Evans, S Connor, S Jones, A Jones, R Lewis, J Bearman, J Arlidge, A Hall, T Selley.

Ulster squad: J Fitzpatrick, N Brady, T Court, B Botha, B Young, E O’Donoghue, M McCullough, K Dawson, C del Fava, C Henry, D Pollock, S Phillpott, R Caldwell; S Danielli, D Cave, A Trimble, C Willis, N O’Connor, C Schifcofske, I Whitten, I Boss, P Stienmetz, I Humphreys, M McCrea, B Cunningham.

Connacht squad: L Bibo, A Browne, K Campbell, F Carr, S Cronin, M Deane, A Dunne, G Duffy, A Farley, A Flavin, D Gannon, I Keatley, R Loughney, K Matthews, R Morris, C Muldoon, J Muldoon, F Murphy, T Nathan, R Ofisa, C Rigney, D Riordan, M Swift, N Ta’auso, B Wilkinson.

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