CONNACHT v DRAGONS (Tonight, KO 5pm)
CONSISTENCY of selection is key for Newport Gwent Dragons as they bid to record their first RaboDirect Pro12 away win of the season in Galway.
There are three changes in the backs – wing Tonderai Chavhanga, centre Adam Hughes and scrum half Wayne Evans come in – but the pack remains the same.
Forwards coach Rob Appleyard says it is a reward for strong performances, particularly in the set piece, in the festive derbies against Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.
“The pack has stayed the same because we need consistency," said the former Wales flanker. “Individuals are playing well and those coming off the bench have also had an impact.
“It’s quite tough for those not in the squad at the moment because the forwards are really delivering and it’s hard to break in. Although you do want to keep players fresh, when you build momentum at the set piece you want it to continue.”
The Dragons are forced into a change in midfield after Pat Leach suffered a head injury against the Ospreys.
It means a return for Adam Hughes in the number 13 jersey and he will have plenty of defensive responsibility.
“I’ve been trying to drum into Adam the importance of reading Dan Parks’ body language,” said Appleyard, who is also defence coach.
“He needs to try and read whether Parks is going to kick, run or pass and then communicate that. People think of Connacht as a heavy, kicking side but they do play some good rugby. Parks can hold his depth and play wide. We will look to ensure we are not exposed on the outside by blitzing too much.
“We will look to control in the middle of the field and cut off their gain lines from out wide.”
Connacht: R Henshaw, D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo, D Parks, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White (captain), M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu.
Replacements (from): E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O'Donohoe, M Jarvis, T O’Halloran
Dragons: H Amos, T Prydie, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga, L Robling, W Evans; P Price, S Parry, D Way, A Coombs, R Sidoli, L Evans (capt), N Cudd, T Faletau.
Replacements: H Gustafson, O Evans, N Buck, A Jones, T Brown, J Evans, A Smith, J Dixon.
Ref: Andrew McManemy (Scotland)