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Carty back at 10 as Connacht look for statement win on the road in Gloucester

Gloucester’s interest in the Champions Cup may be diminished but they possess real quality.

OPPORTUNITY BECKONS FOR Connacht on the road today as they take on Gloucester in Kingsholm [KO 1pm, BT Sport] with the English side’s Heineken Champions Cup hopes already close to finished.

Two defeats from their opening two games leave Johan Ackermann’s men at the bottom of Pool 5 and though Connacht are just two match points ahead, they feel like more realistic quarter-finalists at this point.

jack-carty-leaves-the-field-after-the-game Jack Carty starts at 10 for Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If Andy Friend’s side can win today, the likelihood is that Gloucester would send a weakened team over to Galway next weekend for the second of these back-to-back European clashes, therefore increasing the prospects of a strong Connacht home victory.

First things first. Connacht have the tricky task of winning in England today, a feat that Gloucester certainly don’t look too willing to facilitate as they have selected their strongest team.

World Cup winner Franco Mostert joins former Munster man Gerbrandt Grobler in the second row, while the extremely dynamic openside Jake Polledri is in the back row with the beefier Ruan Ackermann and captain Ben Morgan.

Out-half Danny Cipriani is a more than familiar presence and intelligently runs Gloucester’s multi-layered attack shape, hoping to find the likes of the rapid Ollie Thorley in space out wide.

Gloucester’s lineout capitulation against Toulouse in round one shows they can crumble at inopportune times, but Connacht are up against a decent team in this one.

Of key interest in Friend’s side is the fact that Jack Carty starts at 10. The much-discussed rise of Conor Fitzgerald in recent months has been brilliant to watch from Connacht and Irish rugby points of view, but Carty is unlikely to have enjoyed it as much as everyone else.

The Ireland international out-half now has a fire underneath him – not that he particularly required it – as he returns to the starting slot determined to underline that he is the frontline game leader in Friend’s squad. A showing involving Carty’s very best tactical kicking, chop tackling, and place-kicking would be useful.

danny-cipriani Danny Cipriani runs the Gloucester attack. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Also aiding Connacht’s cause is the fact that their previously severe injury crisis has faded in recent weeks, providing a little more depth of quality within their 23.

Ulster’s John Cooney is deservedly getting all the plaudits in terms of Irish scrum-halves at the moment but Connacht halfback Caolin Blade’s form has been superb too and he will look to continue to thrive opposite the equally lively Joe Simpson.

Captain Jarrad Butler’s return to European action is timely on a day Connacht will have to show plenty of grit too. 

Make no mistake, this would be a landmark win for Friend’s Connacht on the road in Europe but, after letting it slip in Toulouse last time out, there is major motivation to make a statement in Gloucester. 

Win and something special could be on in Europe. 

Gloucester:

15. Tom Marshall
14. Louis Rees-Zammit
13. Chris Harris
12. Mark Atkinson
11. Ollie Thorley
10. Danny Cipriani
9. Joe Simpson

1. Val Rapava Ruskin
2. Franco Marais
3. Fraser Balmain
4. Gerbrandt Grobler
5. Franco Mostert
6. Ruan Ackermann
7. Jake Polledri
8. Ben Morgan (captain)

Replacements:

16. Todd Gleave
17. Josh Hohneck
18. Jamal Ford-Robinson
19. Alex Craig
20. Lewis Ludlow
21. Callum Braley
22. Billy Twelvetrees
23. Matt Banahan

Connacht:

15. John Porch
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Bundee Aki
12. Peter Robb
11. Kyle Godwin
10. Jack Carty
9. Caolin Blade

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Joe Maksymiw
5. Quinn Roux
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Colby Fainga’a
8. Jarrad Butler (captain)

Replacements:

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Matthew Burke
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Robin Copeland
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Conor Fitzgerald
23. Tom Daly

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère [France].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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