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Connacht v Blues: Teams
At the Sportsground, Saturday September 1, kick-off 5pm
Cardiff will travel to the Sportsground to do battle with Connacht in the opening weekend of the new RaboDirect PRO12 campaign.
Both teams have started the past two seasons with victories while Connacht finished last term with three wins from four.
Connacht have lost only one of their last six matches on home soil while the Blues finished last season with only one win in six.
Ireland international Gavin Duffy will lead out Connacht, having been announced as captain for a second year running.
Duffy is supported on the wings by last season regulars Fetu'u Vainikolo and Tiernan O'Halloran while the centre partnership of Mata Fifita and Eoin Griffin completes the backline.
Kieran Marmion will gain his first cap for Connacht at scrum half. Another regular from last season is out half Miah Nikora who got a good run out in both pre-season friendlies in August.
Connacht have plenty of experience amongst the starting forwards. John Muldoon, Mike McCarthy, and Johnny O'Connor have almost 450 caps between them.
Director of rugby Eric Elwood is looking forward to kicking off with the new season, commenting: "All the pre-season training has led to this point and we can't wait to get going."
The Blues have a good record against the Irish province, having only suffered one defeat since 2005, a 18-16 loss at Sportsground in September 2009.
Coach Phil Davies is missing the likes of Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny, Michael Paterson, Chris Czekaj and Jason Tovey.
There is a starting competitive debut at his new region for hooker Andi Kyriacou, who lines up alongside Taufa'ao Filise and Thomas Davies.
"We are looking forward to the start of the season, after a pretty gruelling pre-season in many ways, the players have worked very hard to be fair to them," said Davies.
"The fitness standards that are needed for regional rugby are high and the players have all worked to achieve that standard. Connacht are a pretty solid team and Dan Parks is now there.
"I'm not sure if Dan is playing as he has suffered an injury but they have a pretty-workmen-like team and I have had experience myself over there with the Scarlets."
"So I know how tough they are there and we are expecting a tough game."
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (capt), 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Mata Fifita, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 David Moore, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Gareth Davies, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Andries Pretorius (c), 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Rory Watts-Jones, 5 James Down, 4 Robin Copeland, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Thomas Davies
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Beniot Borrust, 18 Nathan Trevett, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Cory Allen, 23 Tom Williams, 24 Owen Williams.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Ulster 23 - 6 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 28 - 13 Zebre|
|Cardiff Blues 24 - 28 Munster|
|Friday 31st October|
|Ospreys 26 - 11 Connacht|
|Glasgow 17 - 9 Benetton Treviso|
|Leinster 33 - 8 Edinburgh|
|Sunday 12th October|
|Ospreys 26 - 15 Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 11th October|
|Ulster 29 - 9 Glasgow|
|Zebre 3 - 20 Leinster|
|Edinburgh 24 - 10 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Friday 10th October|
|Munster 17 - 6 Scarlets|
|Benetton Treviso 6 - 9 Connacht|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com