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Connacht Make Changes Up Front

Connacht Make Changes Up Front

The Connacht team to face Edinburgh in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 fixture at the Sportsground (kick-off 5pm) has been announced.

Following on from last weekend’s away defeat to the Dragons, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has made three personnel changes up front.

Brett Wilkinson, who earns his 150th cap for the province on Saturday, will start at loosehead prop while Ronan Loughney comes in on the tighthead side to replace Nathan White.

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Andrew Browne, making way for Johnny O’Connor, moves from the back row to the second row. This time, he links up with Michael Kearney in the engine room.

There are no changes to the westerners’ starting back-line while, on the replacements bench, there are a few new faces.

Prop JP Cooney is named among the front row replacements. Garryowen’s Ulster Bank Bateman Cup-winning prop joined Connacht last summer and has made a notable impression for the Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup.

The Athlone-born Daniel Qualter has also been named on the bench. The 20-year-old is in his third year of the Connacht Academy and could make his league debut against Edinburgh on Saturday evening.

Following a lengthy injury spell this season, scrum half Paul O’Donohoe returns to the fray a week ahead of the Heineken Cup round 3 game against Biarritz Olympique.

Team captain Gavin Duffy returned from injury last time out against the Dragons, and is hoping to inspire Connacht during a crucial December spell.

“It is great to be back, especially now as we are heading into a very busy period. (Playing on the wing) is not that different as there is a lot of interchanging with the back-three covering for each other,” admitted Duffy.

“There are areas we need to improve on, such as our set piece, as we know Edinburgh are a formidable team, but we are at our best when we concentrate on getting our own game right.”

Connacht’s last six league fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day. Elwood’s charges will be looking to repeat last season’s win over Edinburgh (26-13) to earn their third home victory of the current campaign.

The Connacht management are monitoring an injury list that includes 17 players at present, with the experienced Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Frank Murphy and George Naoupu among the sidelined players.

CONNACHT (v Edinburgh): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Danie Poolman, David McSharry, Gavin Duffy (capt); Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Ronan Loughney, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Denis Buckley, JP Cooney, Daniel Qualter, David Gannon, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Fetu’u Vainikolo.