New signing George Naoupu has been included in the Connacht squad to play Worcester Warriors in Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 at Sixways on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Johnny O’Connor and Andrew Browne have joined Keith Matthews on Connacht’s injury list, but Troy Nathan and Jamie Hagan are available for selection after returning from injury.
Former New Zealand Under-21 back rower George Naoupu is poised to make his debut for the province, after signing on until the end of the season.
Connacht coach Michael Bradley describes Naoupu as a ‘hardened professional’ and ‘a serious option’.
Bradley’s men currently top Pool 2 in the Amlin Challenge Cup but they will have to pull out a top drawer performance to get a result at Sixways on Saturday.
“We would look at this tournament different from the Magners League. We played very well last week in patches (against Cardiff), but didn’t get the rub of the green,” he said.
“You need to look at these two competitions in isolation. Connacht historically have done very well and enjoyed the European Challenge Cup, so that’s the way we look at it.
“We had Harlequins over here and Worcester, and beat both of them. We lost to London Irish, Sale and Bath, but they were all good contests here, so we know what to expect, and this time around it will not be any different.
“Connacht do well in Europe, we seem to rise to the challenge, and the fact that if we win the group – and we are in a good position to win the group – we can get a home quarter-final, but we have to take that opportunity and be quite focused on it.”
Commenting on this weekend’s opponents, Bradley added: “Worcester are extremely physical at the breakdown. They boast a large, strong and physical pack, while their backs are laden with individual talent that you cannot afford to give them space. Montpellier travelled there and beat them by standing up to their pack.”
CONNACHT Squad (v Worcester Warriors) – Backs (10): Liam Bibo, Fionn Carr, Gavin Duffy, Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy, Troy Nathan, Miah Nikora, Conor O’Loughlin, Niva Ta’auso, Aidan Wynne.
Forwards (13): Sean Cronin, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Ronan Loughney, Mike McCarthy, Mike McComish, Robbie Morris, John Muldoon (capt), George Naoupu, Ray Ofisa, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, Brett Wilkinson.