CONNACHT have made two changes to their starting XV for their first Magners League foray to Italy where they face Benetton Treviso this evening (6.05pm, Irish time).
Adrian Flavin comes in for Sean Cronin, who has not been released from the Irish training camp, while Cillian Willis is preferred to Frank Murphy, whose intercepted passes have cost Connacht points in the last two games.
The two sides have never met, but Connacht coach Eric Elwood is expecting the fixture to prove every bit as challenging as last week’s defeat to Leinster, when Connacht were robbed of a bonus point in stoppage time.
“They are making a big push with an emphasis on home matches, so it’s a big test for us. Leinster came unstuck there and they pushed Leicester in the Heineken Cup.
“The have a big squad and a lot of internationals who are strong, physical and hard working. It’s a huge task for us physically.”
Both sides have bagged 12 points from their six outings to date, but Treviso have earned all their points at home, including a 29-13 victory over Leinster.
They travelled to Munster last Friday without a host of regulars, many of whom are back on duty as coach Franco Smith makes eight changes to his team.
Four of those are in the back line with scrum-half Tobias Botes partnering the Aussie-born Italian international Kristopher Burton, while Tommaso Benvenuti will be joined in midfield by Italian centre Gonzalo Garcia.
Up front, Italian hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is joined by fellow international Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet and Pedro do Santo, while Alessandro Zanni returns to the back-row.
Having tapered training this week, Elwood will hope his players are sufficiently rested for the clash.
“We feel we are going to be competitive,” he said. “
Bayonne and Leinster were physically demanding and this one will be the same, so we want the lads to feel fresh.”
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