In his 92nd appearance for Connacht, centre Keith Matthews will captain the province for Monday’s Magners League derby match against Munster at the Sportsground (kick-off 6.10pm).
The festive derby has had to be refixed for Monday to allow the pitch at the Sportsground time to thaw out from the record-breaking freezing temperatures experienced this week.
Keith Matthews, who will captain Connacht against his native province, joined the westerners in 2005 having made two appearances for Munster.
The 28-year-old from Limerick has featured in 68 Magners League games and 23 Amlin Challenge Cup ties for Connacht.
He was capped against Argentina Jaguares when selected for Ireland ‘A’ in November of last year alongside his province team-mates John Muldoon, Brett Wilkinson, Ian Keatley and Frank Murphy.
Looking at the rest of the selected Connacht side, Gavin Duffy’s back injury allows Keatley a chance to impress at full-back. The 23-year-old traditionally plays at out-half but has shown his versatility of late, having excelled at centre and full-back.
In a welcome boost, Niva Ta’auso has recovered from an ankle injury to continue his centre partnership with Matthews.
Also back from injury is Ezra Taylor who comes in for regular skipper John Muldoon at number 8. Muldoon fractured his forearm against Harlequins last weekend and is expected to be out for a number of months.
Commenting on the Munster match, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood said: “We will have to take them on up front to beat them.
“I don’t think the game this weekend will be any different from recent encounters, they’ll be strong at the breakdown.
“Their scrum is a talking point but I have no doubt they’ll ask us questions there and it is always an area where you have to challenge them.”
CONNACHT (v Munster): Ian Keatley; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews (capt), Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Cillian Willis; Rob Sweeney, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Michael McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Ezra Taylor.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Barry Fa’amausili, Dylan Rogers, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Frank Murphy, Troy Nathan, Brian Tuohy.