Connacht Eagles head coach Nigel Carolan has named his side to take on Pool 4 leaders Newcastle Falcons in the British & Irish Cup at Kingston Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
There are four changes to the Eagles team that beat Cross Keys 31-16 in round 4, starting with JP Cooney’s inclusion at tighthead prop.
The 22-year-old Garryowen clubman has made the step up to the senior team on two occasions this season, coming off the bench against Edinburgh and a week later during the home victory over Biarritz Olympique in the Heineken Cup.
Cooney is joined in the front row by Rodney Ah You, who moves to the loosehead side of the scrum, and experienced hooker Adrian Flavin who has earned 138 caps for Connacht.
In the second row, UL Bohemians and former Connacht Under-20 lock Conor Kindregan will start alongside the more experienced David Gannon who has 88 caps for the province.
Thomas Anderson captains the westerners from blindside flanker while David Heffernan, currently in his second year of the Connacht Academy, starts at openside. Aaron Conneely, a year 3 Connacht Academy player, retains the number 8 jersey.
Steve Macauley is named at full-back with fellow Academy member Conor Finn and senior player Mark McCrea set to feature on the wings.
The centre partnership of Brian Murphy and Tadhg Leader remains in place, as does the half-back pairing of David Moore and Jack Carty.
Commenting on the round 5 fixture, Eagles assistant coach Jimmy Duffy said: “We are going over there wanting to compete and just looking to focus on our own game.
“We can’t do a huge amount about the Falcons, who have a great set piece and lots of quality players, but there has been a real buzz about the guys because they are looking forward to testing themselves on that stage.”
Recalling the sides’ round 2 meeting in Athlone which ended in a 34-3 defeat for the Connacht men, he added: “Newcastle had a lot of quality and were a very big physical side that night – probably the biggest we have faced.
“It was great for our boys to come up against a team like that, and they were very accurate in everything they did. For large portions of the night we did pretty well, but we lacked a bit of decisiveness at key times.
“That is one thing we hope to address when we come over on Saturday and we know we will have to eliminate mistakes at crucial stages.”
CONNACHT EAGLES (v Newcastle Falcons): Steve Macauley; Mark McCrea, Tadhg Leader, Brian Murphy, Conor Finn; Jack Carty, David Moore; Rodney Ah You, Adrian Flavin, JP Cooney, Conor Kindregan, David Gannon, Thomas Anderson (capt), David Heffernan, Aaron Conneely.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Charlie Butterworth, Marcus Walsh, Mata Fifita, Finn Gormley.