In-form Connacht target top six spot

RABO DIRECT PRO12:

On the back of three successive victories, Connacht coach Pat Lam says it is now possible for his side to target a top six or seven place in order to qualify for Europe under expected new changes.

“The last series of games has put us in the frame, but we do have a big run home. There is a real fight between ourselves, Edinburgh, Scarlets, Dragons and Cardiff, and we are all playing each other,” he said.

“But we know what we need to do. We’ve targeted this next block of games and everything is about the process we go through as a team to earn the wins and valuable points to move up the table.”

Part of that process has been understanding the threat Dragons pose at home, where they have lost only to Munster and Leinster this season.

“We have spoken this week about the challenges at Rodney Parade. They are totally different at home and, if you look at their games, their line speed and contact is faster, and it is in front of a hostile crowd.”

Lam has kept faith with the same XV that disposed of Treviso 38-6 at the Sportsground last time out. It will be another big test for Academy player Eoghan Masterson who retains his place at openside, alongside captain John Muldoon and Eoin McKeon in the back row. Connacht’s only Ireland squad member, Robbie Henshaw, returns to full-back, with London Irish-bound Eoin Griffin and Dave McSharry in the centre.

The Dragons welcome the return of their Welsh internationals, including captain Richard Coombs, in a side that boasts 10 changes to the starting XV which lost 38-8 to Ulster in their last outing.

Matches between these two sides have usually been close affairs, and there is nothing to suggest anything different tomorrow.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: D Evans, T Prydie, R Wardle, J Dixon, W Harries, J Tovey, R Rees; O Evans, H Gustafson, B Douglas, A Coombs (c), R Sidoli, L Evans, N Cudd, N Talei.

Replacements: E Dee, P Price, D Bell, M Screech, T Faletau, W Evans, A Smith, M Pewtner.

CONNACHT: R Henshaw, T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Carr, D Parks, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, A Muldowney, M Kearney, J Muldoon (c), E Masterson, E McKeon.

Replacements: D Heffernan, R Loughney, N White, M Swift, A Browne, F Murphy, M Nikora, D Leader.

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