Scrum half Cillian Willis and hooker Adrian Flavin will start for Connacht in their first ever Magners League visit to Stadio di Monigo, where they will face Benetton Treviso on Saturday night (kick-off 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time).
Head coach Eric Elwood has chosen a strong team for this weekend’s clash with the Italians, as Connacht look to bounce back from an 18-6 derby defeat to Leinster.
The side shows two changes with hooker Adrian Flavin replacing Sean Cronin, who has international commitments with Ireland.
Cillian Willis has been preferred to Frank Murphy at scrum half. It will be the 25-year-old’s first league start for the westerners, after five runouts as a replacement.
Gavin Duffy, Brett Wilkinson and team captain John Muldoon will all start after being released by the Ireland management. The trio were training, alongside Cronin, at this week’s camp in Limerick.
Meanwhile, Niva Ta’auso has recovered sufficiently from a neck injury to continue his centre partnership with Keith Matthews.
Having failed to score a try in their last three league games against Ulster, the Cardiff Blues and Leinster, Elwood wants his side to up their efforts in attack.
“We are trying to develop that part of our game more, but tries in the Magners League are hard to come by,” he said.
“It’s more difficult when you are defending for long periods and when you do get your hands on the ball, you are fatigued, so we are trying to get a nice balance where we defend enough but also play with the ball a bit more.
“We are asking the boys to stay positive, we are not going to change the game too much, but we are trying to improve in that area.
“If you look at the Magners League, we have been very competitive and pushed teams all the way for the full 80 minutes. We have won two-and-a-half games. Yes, we are disappointed we lost out on a bonus point last weekend, but we were playing the former European champions.
“Leinster had a lot of possesion, their defence was excellent, tries were hard to come by, and we are disappointed, But we are doing a lot of good work and unfortunately we didn’t get a point out of the game for all the hard work.”
CONNACHT (v Benetton Treviso): Gavin Duffy; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Cillian Willis; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Barry Fa’amausili, Bernie Upton, Ezra Taylor, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Troy Nathan.