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.
Connacht scrum-half Chris Keane
Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made eight changes to his side for tonight's pre-season friendly against Leicester Tigers at the Sportsground (kick-off 6.30pm).
All bar one of the alterations comes in the pack, with New Zealand lock Andrew Gallagher set to make his first start for the province and former Galway favourite Colm Rigney making his first appearance since rejoining from Leeds Tykes.
Up front, Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, skipper Andrew Farley, and back rows John Muldoon and Matt Lacey all come in for their first starts of the campaign. In the backline, there is one change from the 20-13 victory over Parma last Tueday with Chris Keane replacing Tom Tierney at scrum-half. David Slemen reverts to full-back with Paul Warwick restored at number 10.
On the injury front, Connacht may have to do without flanker Brendan O'Connor for the start of the Celtic League next month. The 22-year-old sustained an ankle ligament injury in the first half of the Parma game, and team manager Tim Allnutt admitted: "It looked quite bad at first but susbsequent examinations have proved positive and Brendan's shouldn't be out for that long.
"He felt a crack when it happened and for a time it seemed as if it was quite a serious injury but thankfully that's not the case." Connacht backs Ted Robinson (groin) and James Downey (back) are also currently recovering from long-term operations.
There will be some familiar faces in the Leicester line-up tonight, as forward Leinster forwards Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings make their debuts for the Welford Road club.
15-times capped Ireland international Cullen will form a lock partnership with former England Under-21 James Hamilton from the off in Galway, while Jennings, who lined out in Ireland A's 15-9 defeat of France "A" last March, lines out in the Tigers' back row alongside Brett Deacon and number 8 Will Johnson, the younger brother of former England and Lions' captain Martin.
Tigers head coach Pat Howard told the club's website: "Warm-up matches give you a chance to test out combinations and also to give players the confidence they need to perform during the season proper.
"There are some guys at the club that have been here for a while, but they just need an opportunity, like this, to show what they're made of. The Zurich A League proved that we've got the best second team in the country - some of those players need to stand up this season."
Ireland and Lions full-back/wing Geordan Murphy also makes the trip west, having been named amongst the English side's replacements. Leicester face Munster in another pre-season friendly, back at Welford Road, next Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).
CONNACHT: David Slemen; Daniel Riordan, Matt Mostyn, Mark McHugh, Conor McPhillips; Paul Warwick, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Adrian Clarke, Andrew Gallagher, Andrew Farley (Capt), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Joe Merrigan, Dan McFarland, Ronan Loughney, Christian Short, David Gannon, Michael Swift, Conor O'Loughlin, Tom Tierney, Keith Matthews.
LEICESTER: Sam Vesty; Tom Varndell, Dan Hipkiss, Daryl Gibson (Capt), Alesana Tuilagi; Andy Goode, Harry Ellis; Michael Holford, George Chuter, Alex Moreno, James Hamilton, Leo Cullen, Brett Deacon, Shane Jennings, Will Johnson.
Replacements: Ephraim Taukafa, John Rawson, Will Skinner, Luke Abraham, Scott Bernand, Ross Broadfoot, Matt Cornwell, Leon Lloyd, Geordan Murphy.
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)