10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Meanwhile, up front, Ronan Loughney comes in at tighthead prop and Ireland international Johnny O'Connor returns to the starting line up at openside.
Former Ireland squad member Gavin Duffy moves from outside centre to full-back, making way for Ta'auso's inclusion.
Andrew Browne has moved to his more familiar position in the second row, with Ray Ofisa starting for Connacht for the first time at number eight.
Kieran Campbell (hip), Tim Donnelly (knee), John Hearty (hip), Michael McCarthy (foot) and Robbie Morris (foot) were not considered due to their respective injuries.
CONNACHT (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta'auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O'Connor, Ray Ofisa.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brian McGovern, Michael Swift, Colm Rigney, Conor O'Loughlin, Andy Dunne, Troy Nathan.