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Connacht v Biarritz: Heineken Cup match preview

Last Updated: 07/12/12 10:39pm

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Eric Elwood: Minus 13 first-team players for visit of Biarritz

Eric Elwood: Minus 13 first-team players for visit of Biarritz

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Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has again been forced to call on his young guns for Friday's Heineken Cup clash at home to Biarritz.

The Irish province are without 13 first-team players due to injury, including captain Gavin Duffy, who hurt his hamstring in last weekend's PRO12 defeat to Edinburgh.

Elwood makes just two changes to his starting line-up, Fetu'u Vainuikolo replacing Duffy on the left wing and Mike McCarthy returning to the second row after impressing for Ireland during the autumn internationals.

Andrew Browne moves to blindside flanker to form a back-row partnership with Willie Faloon and Eoin McKeon, while fly-half Dan Parks is named as captain.

Connacht have lost four of their last five games in all competitions, but will leapfrog Biarritz in Pool 3 should they emerge victorious at the Sportsgrounds.

The Basque club have not tasted victory on the road since August but have named a strong side for the trip to Galway.

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili captains the side after kicking 20 points in last weekend's Top 14 win over Bordeaux, while fellow French international Imanol Harinordoquy continues his return from injury with a place on the replacements bench.

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Danie Poolman, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks (c), 9 Kieran Marmion; 1 Brett Wilkinson, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 3 Ronan Loughney, 4 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 6 Andrew Browne, 7 Willie Faloon, 8 Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Danny Qualter, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Matthew Jarvis.

Biarritz: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Charles Gimenez, 12 Marcelo Bosch, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Dimitri Yachvili (c); 1 Fabien Barcella, 2 Benoit August, 3 Fancisco Gomez Kodela, 4 Erik Lund, 5 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Benoit Guyot, 8 Raphael Lakafia.

Replacements: 16 Jean-Philippe Genevois, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Lodewicus Blaaw, 19 Pelu Taele, 20 Imanol Harinordoquy, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 23 Seremaia Burotu.

What they said...

Connacht coach Eric Elwood:

"It's going to be a difficult one. The lads stepped up last week against Edinburgh, but this is a different challenge. We are in Europe, against top-flight opposition whose strength is in the forward pack, and they are a big physical team.

"It's a big occasion for the club, and we really fancied ourselves after last year's campaign that we wanted to step up and improve on last year. Unfortunately the hand we have been dealt is that we have a hell of a lot of injuries.

"It's not me who is suffering, it's the lads who are injured because they are missing out on an opportunity, and the club and our supporters in that we are potentially not able to field our best team to give ourselves the best chance."

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