Connacht out to topple Toulouse
November 18, 2011
Clement Poitrenaud celebrates after his game-winning try against Gloucester © Getty Images
Heineken Cup rugby comes to Galway for the first time as Connacht host four-time champions Toulouse to the Sportsground on Saturday afternoon.
Connacht really could not have hoped for better opponents for their first home game in Europe's premier club competition and the Westerners are cautiously optimistic of recording a massive upset.
Admittedly, Connacht tasted defeat on their tournament debut last weekend but they performed heroically in losing 25-17 to Aviva Premiership pacesetters Harlequins and should have at the very least claimed a losing bonus point after a sterling effort at the Stoop.
Toulouse, by contrast, opened with a win, defeating Gloucester at the Stade Ernest Wallon, but the French champions were less than impressive and Guy Noves will be warning his troops that a greater effort will be required if they are to avoid an embarrassing defeat in Galway.
Connacht - Player to Watch: Tiernan O'Halloran faces the unenviable task of trying to tie down the top try-scorer in the World Cup Vincent Clerc. The former Ireland Sevens player is still finding his feet in the XV form of the game but with blistering pace, the youngster will look to shine against one of Europe's power houses.
Connacht - Team News: Connacht make one change to the team which impressed against Harlequins. Dave Gannon comes into the second-row alongside Michael Swift with Ray Ofisa moving to the bench.
Toulouse - Player to Watch: Thierry Dusautoir takes his spot in the back-row and the IRB World Player of the Year is certain to shine whatever the stage.
Toulouse - Team News: Thierry Dusautoir returns in the Toulouse back-row while Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard take their places in the backs. Yannick Jauzion and Lionel Beauxis start in the midfield with William Servat taking his spot at hooker.
Key Battle: Gavin Duffy is up against Clement Poitrenaud at fullback. Poitrenaud scored the all-important try against Gloucester last weekend while Duffy will aim to help Connacht towards their maiden Heineken Cup win.
Trivia: This weekend's game will be Connacht's 100th in European competition, with 98 of those games having come in the Challenge Cup
Stats: Connacht have won their last seven home games in Europe
"Having been involved in all of the teams matches so far this season he has shown his ability to play at the highest intensity week in week out and he is an integral part of the squad off the field as well."
"It's a wonderful team, skilful and very welcoming."
Prediction: Despite Connacht's best efforts, Toulouse will come away with a bonus-point win
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen