Connacht have made two changes for their Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 match against Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
New Zealander George Naoupu comes in at number 8 for his Connacht debut, while Ray Ofisa replaces the injured Johnny O’Connor at openside flanker.
The westerners have been forced to make one late change to their matchday squad, with replacement hooker Adrian Flavin ruled out because of illness. His place on the bench will be taken by Galwegians youngster Dermot Murphy.
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 (v Worcester Warriors): Gavin Duffy; Liam Bibo, Niva Ta’auso, Aidan Wynne, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Mike McCarthy, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Jamie Hagan, Mike Swift, Mike McComish, Conor O’Loughlin, Miah Nikora, Troy Nathan.