Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team and replacements for Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Saracens at the Sportsground (kick-off 6.30pm).
The game will be the last test for Eric Elwood’s men before the start of the Magners League, when Connacht welcome the Newport Gwent Dragons to the Sportsground on Saturday, September 4.
The pre-season fixture against Saracens will give Elwood and his new look management team a final chance to see some of the new signings in action, as well as a measure of how well their pre-season training has gone.
The new Connacht supremo said: “We’re looking for a huge improvement on the defensive side of things. Last Friday (against Harlequins) was our first game and we were a little bit rusty.
“It will be a huge challenge to take on Saracens who have three or four games under their belts at this stage, but that’s the challenge we want to test ourselves against and I’ve no doubt the lads will step up to the mark on Saturday.”
The 28-man squad sees a number of changes with Johnny O’Connor being replaced as team captain by Frank Murphy.
O’Connor was stretchered off after just fifteen minutes of last week’s game against Harlequins with a hip injury, but the 30-year-old flanker, who made his Ireland debut against South Africa in November 2004, is set to make a good recovery.
He hopes to be back in action for the start of the Magners League in two weeks’ time.
Ireland Under-20 internationals Tiernan O’Halloran and Eoin Griffin will start in a back-line which sees Miah Nikora and stand-in skipper Murphy come in for Ian Keatley and Conor O’Loughlin at half-back.
Ronan Loughney replaces Brett Wilkinson at loosehead prop, while Ray Ofisa and recent signing Ezra Taylor join Andrew Browne in the back row.
Connacht will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 40-7 loss to Harlequins in their opening pre-season friendly, in which scrum half O’Loughlin scored their only try.
Tickets for Saturday’s friendly against Saracens are available to purchase here.
CONNACHT (v Saracens): Tiernan O’Halloran; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Eoin Griffin, Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Frank Murphy (capt); Ronan Loughney, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, Andrew Browne, Ray Ofisa, Ezra Taylor.
Replacements (from): Dermot Murphy, Rob Sweeney, Brett Wilkinson, Dave Nolan, Denis Buckley, Mike McComish, Shane Conneely, Cillian Willis, Ian Keatley, Shane Monahan, Darragh Fanning, Adam Kennedy, Aidan Wynne.