Currently in ninth and three points behind today’s visitors, Connacht need a win if they want to improve on last season’s eighth place finish and coach Pat Lam says anything other than victory will be disappointing.
“We have an opportunity as a group over the next fortnight to do what no Connacht team has ever done, finish where no Connacht team has,” he said.
“It is a massive game for us since it will be the last home game of the year. We probably have not been as effective in home games as we wanted to be, so these last two weeks wrap up the Connacht family of 2013/2014.”
With that in mind, Lam has included three departing players on his bench, the long-serving and highly-respected full back Gavin Duffy, who has not featured since December’s interprovincial with Munster, former Scottish international Dan Parks, and scrum-half Frank Murphy. In the only change to the starting 15 Aly Muldowney comes in for Andrew Browne.
“There is of course a lot of emotion attached to this game and it’s the last time a lot of guys will get the chance to play in front of the home crowd. It’s a great opportunity for us all to acknowledge the contribution of these true Connacht servants,” Lam said.
Veteran Michael Swift who has signed for another year at the Sportsground, said it was important to finish with a win for the team and the supporters.
“We want to finish as high as we can and that is a massive carrot.”
While Connacht have lost their last three fixtures, Cardiff arrive with a hat-trick of wins over Ulster, Edinburgh and Scarlets. Outhalf Gareth Davies plays his 50th game for the Blues as they look to overtake seventh-place Edinburgh.
CONNACHT: D Leader, D Poolman, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy, M Nikora, K Marmion, R Loughney, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, A Muldowney, M Kearney, J Muldoon (cpt), W Faloon, E McKeon.
Replacements: D Heffernan, D Buckley, F Bealham, M Swift, A Browne, F Murphy, D Parks, G Duffy.
CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish, A Cuthbert, C Allen, D Hewitt, H Robinson, G Davies, L Williams, G Jenkins, M Rees (cpt), T Filise, B Davies, F Paulo, M Cook, J Navidi, E Jenkins.
Replacements: K Dacey, T Davies, S Andrew, C Dicomidis, L Hamilton, L Jones, S Humberstone, I Tuifua.