Connacht coach Eric Elwood has brought back a number of frontliners for Friday’s Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 1 showdown with Bayonne at the Sportsground (kick-off 7pm).
There are seven changes in personnel to the Connacht team that suffered a shock defeat to I Cavalieri Estra in Italy last weekend.
Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews and Frank Murphy return in the back-line, while Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael McCarthy and Ray Ofisa come back into the starting pack.
Winger Darragh Fanning retains his place on the right wing after an impressive European debut in Prato, and number 8 John Muldoon is set for his first outing at the Sportsground since fracturing his arm on Ireland’s summer tour.
Cronin and Hagan renew their front row partnership with Brett Wilkinson for what is a ‘must win’ game for the westerners.
Emphasising that point, Connacht coach Eric Elwood said: “We firmly believe we have a chance to qualify, but for us to have a chance we need to win this game on Friday.
“We had been going okay in the Magners League and were looking forward to Europe and the first game against a team we were expected win against. To come home with our tails between our legs, it was not a nice place to be in in the last few days.
“To be fair to the lads, they have been doing the business in the Magners League. We had a bad result, we know that, the lads know that, and they don’t need to be punished or battering each other in training.
“We had a good discussion, we did the review, we know what we have to do, and we are going to move forward in a positive way and hopefully we will see the rewards on Friday.”
CONNACHT (v Bayonne): Gavin Duffy; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Michael McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Barry Fa’amausili, Ronan Loughney, Bernie Upton, Andrew Browne, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Troy Nathan.