Three players who impressed in the recent victory over Samoa – wingers Shane Monahan and Brian Tuohy and flanker Andrew Browne – have been brought into the Connacht team for Friday’s Magners League clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield (kick-off 7.05pm).
Head coach Eric Elwood has once again blended youth and experience in his selection for Connacht’s round 9 encounter with Edinburgh.
Hooker Dermot Murphy will wins his ninth cap for the province after impressing last weekend against the Ospreys. He will line up next to centurion Brett Wilkinson and former Ireland Under-20 prop Jamie Hagan in the front row.
Miah Nikora retains the number 10 jersey, ahead of Ian Keatley. The 25-year-old New Zealander landed all of Connacht’s 15 points in their narrow loss to the Ospreys.
Galway’s Andrew Browne returns to the blindside of the scrum as Bernie Upton drops to the replacements bench and Mike McCarthy and Michael Swift renew their partnership in the second row.
Brian Tuohy and Shane Monahan come in for their first Magners League starts of the season. Both wingers had strong performances in Connacht’s historic win over Samoa and join Eoin Griffin, Keith Matthews and Gavin Duffy in an exciting back-line.
Previewing the game, Elwood said: “Edinburgh are a good side, the style of rugby they play will ask questions. They are very strong at home, they play a wide expansive game and they will test us all over the park.
“It’s always a tough place to go and we made the lads aware of our record there. We did not have a good outing last year, but that is the challenge.
“We went to Glasgow and performed after a previous week’s disappointment, but this is going to be a bigger challenge because Edinburgh are very strong.”
Fionn Carr, who is nursing a leg injury is amongst Connacht’s walking wounded along with Adrian Flavin, David Nolan, Conor O’Loughlin, Niva Ta’auso, Rya Ofisa and Tiernan O’Halloran.
Reflecting on last Friday’s late collapse to the Ospreys, who nabbed the match-winning try through replacement scrum half Jamie Nutbrown, Elwood admitted that the disappointment of that result will act as a spur for them in Scotland.
“When you are six points up with a couple of minutes to go, you’d like to think you would be able to close it out,” he said.
“We are doing a lot of good work – 90 to 90%, but it’s the final five percent that is the winning or losing of rugby matches.
“We know the three games we lost the points in, but our challenge now is to push on, learn from our mistakes and hope they don’t happen again.
“We are close and we have to acknowledge the good work we are doing, but if we want to get where we want to go, then that 5 to 10% is important to us.”
CONNACHT (v Edinburgh): Gavin Duffy; Shane Monahan, Eoin Griffin, Keith Matthews, Brian Tuohy; Miah Nikora, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Dermot Murphy, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Ronan Loughney, Dylan Rogers, Rob Sweeney, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Cillian Willis, Ian Keatley, Troy Nathan.