Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team and replacements to face Aironi Rugby in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at Stadio Zaffanella (kick-off 4.35pm local time/3.35pm Irish time).
The 23-man squad sees the return of Connacht’s towering second row Michael Swift and versatile prop Dylan Rogers to the pack, while scrum half Frank Murphy joins centre David McSharry and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo as the changes in the back-line.
The 6ft 5in, 18 stone Swift is Connacht’s most-capped player with a staggering 207 caps over 11 seasons for the province.
He has recently signed a contract extension that will see him remain with the westerners until at least the end of the 2012/13 season.
This weekend Swift will mark his return to the starting line-up following a two-week break with a knee injury. Dylan
Rogers, meanwhile, replaces the injured Ronan Loughney at tighthead prop. The 27-year-old South African-born front rower can play on either side of the scrum and earned the call-up after impressing from the bench in last weekend’s narrow loss to Leinster.
Murphy comes in for Paul O’Donohoe at scrum half and McSharry returns to centre following a week’s lay-off while a nasty chin injury healed.
The 21-year-old McSharry, who recently penned a two-year deal with the province, has been ever-present in the squad since earning his first cap against Ulster earlier this season.
Vainikolo returns to the right wing to replace the injured Brian Tuohy. Tuohy underwent surgery earlier this week to repair a broken leg sustained in the New Year’s Day derby against Leinster and looks set to miss most of the remainder of the season.
CONNACHT (v Aironi Rugby): Gavin Duffy (capt); Fetu’u Vainikolo, Kyle Tonetti, David McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran; Matthew Jarvis, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Dylan Rogers, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Denis Buckley, Stewart Maguire, Eoin McKeon, Ray Ofisa, Paul O’Donohoe, Niall O’Connor, Henry Fa’afili.