Connacht determined to finish with a flourish

Connacht are determined to finish their home RaboDirect Pro 12 season on a high when they host Aironi at the Sportsground this evening. Having picked up 15 points in their last six matches, Connacht can post a third successive win and leapfrog Dragons and Treviso.

Coach Eric Elwood says tonight’s game is a great opportunity to build on recent momentum which saw them overcome Ulster last weekend for the first time since 2005.

“If we are serious about the business we are in, then we have to win this game. That is the pressure we are putting on ourselves. To build on the momentum of our win away to the Dragons and last weekend against Ulster, it is imperative to finish the season at home on a high.”

Elwood has made just one change, Denis Buckley replacing Brett Wilkinson who tore a calf muscle last weekend. The game will be the last for popular flanker Ray Ofisa after six years with the province, and for centre Henry Fa’afili.

Despite Aironi pulling out of the league next season due to financial difficulties, it will not affect the current squad who remain contracted to the Italian Federation. They will travel determined to post their first away win and, although results have usually gone the way of the home side, Connacht are expecting a tough physical encounter, particularly from a forward pack that boasts a total of 250 internationals, led by lock Marco Bortolami.

The Italians have made just one change from the side that lost to the Scarlets last weekend, Giovanbattista Venditti returning to the wing and Samoan Sinoti Sinoti switching to outside centre.

CONNACHT: G Duffy, T O’Halloran, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili, F Vainikolo; M Nikora, F Murphy, D Buckley, E Reynecke, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu. Replacements: A Flavin, S Maguire, R Ah You, M Kearney, J O’Connor, P O’Donohoe, M Jarvis, E Griffin.

AIRONI: T Tebaldi; G Toniolatti, S Sinoti, M Pratichetti, G Venditti; L Orquera, T Keats; M Aquero, F Ongaro, L Romano, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole. Replacements: T D’Apice, A De Marchi, L Redolfini, J Furno, N Williams, N Olivier, G Pavan, P Buso.

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