Connacht make return to happiest hunting ground

It’s a measure of how much things have changed at Connacht since they won the PRO12 title in Murrayfield two years ago that 10 of the 23 players involved that day are no longer at the Sportsground.

Connacht make return to happiest hunting ground

By Declan Rooney

It’s a measure of how much things have changed at Connacht since they won the PRO12 title in Murrayfield two years ago that 10 of the 23 players involved that day are no longer at the Sportsground.

There has been an almost complete change in the coaching ticket as well — only forwards coach Jimmy Duffy remains from that unforgettable day in Edinburgh.

Connacht return to Murrayfield for the first time since winning their first trophy, with only eight players featuring this evening who were also in the match 23 for that unforgettable win over Leinster.

Connacht coach Andy Friend is boosted with Ireland international scrum-half Kieran Marmion back in the starting 15 for the first time this season.

And with Bundee Aki back among the replacements Connacht are hoping to build on their 32-13 bonus point win over Zebre at the Sportsground last weekend.

Aside from that unforgettable 20-10 PRO12 final win over Leinster, Connacht have enjoyed a good record in Edinburgh, winning on four of their last five visits, including the last three.

Friend has made four changes as he prepares to deal with a possible backlash from an Edinburgh team pipped in their opening two games away to Ospreys and Ulster.

They are going to be really upset with that. Back in front of their home crowd, they are going to do whatever they can to kick start their season.

“We know what’s coming. We have got to respect that but at the same time we know we are going there to do a job and that’s to win the game. We will do everything we can to make sure we do that.

“Little points in these games are big. The kicking accuracy, they can often determine games there. To me, it’s our defence.

“These big games and championships are won on defence. If you stand up and you make your tackles and you deny opposition time and space, they then give you the ball.”

There are two changes up front where Conan O’Donnell starts at loosehead prop and Ultan Dillane begins in the second row. The other changes come in the backline with Marmion is at scrum-half and Niyi Adeolokun bolsters a dangerous looking back three on the right wing.

“We have got some good quality there. We had some genuinely difficult selection decisions to make heading into this one,” added Friend.

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, J Johnstone, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; J Ritchie, H Watson, L Hamilton.

Replacements: R Ford, A Dell, S Berghan, F McKenzie, M Bradbury, S Kennedy, J van der Walt, JP Socino.

Connacht: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, K Godwin, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; C O’Donnell, D Heffernan, F Bealham; G Thornbury, U Dillane; S O’Brien, J Butler, P Boyle.

Replacements: S Delahunt, P McCabe, D Robertson-McCoy, J Cannon, C Fainga’a, C Blade, C Ronaldson, B Aki.

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