The Connacht team to face Harlequins in Saturday’s Heineken Cup round 5 encounter at the Stoop (kick-off 1.35pm) has been named.
The province’s head coach Eric Elwood has made three personnel changes to the team that beat the Dragons last Saturday evening.
The back row has been boosted by the return from injury of wily flanker Johnny O’Connor, who missed out on last weekend’s league clash.
O’Connor starts at openside flanker with Eoin McKeon, who this week signed a two year contract extension with the westerners, moving to number 8 to replace the injured George Naoupu.
In the back-line, Tiernan O’Halloran starts on the right wing and Tongan international Fetu’u Vainikolo will wear the number 11 jersey.
Matthew Jarvis replaces Dan Parks at out-half in what will be his third Heineken Cup game. The 22-year-old came off the bench in the back-to-back fixtures against French side Biarritz.
Miah Nikora, who returned to training last week following injury, is named on the bench along with replacement winger James Loxton who could make his first Heineken Cup appearance on Saturday afternoon.
The talismanic Parks and South African ace Danie Poolman, who has scored three tries in his last six league outings, have joined Connacht’s injury list along with Naoupu.
In addition, regular captain Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon, Frank Murphy, Willie Faloon and Kyle Tonetti remain unavailable due to injury.
Ahead of the televised clash with familiar opponents Harlequins, Elwood said: “This weekend is a massive opportunity for us. We’re going to play a hugely strong team who are English champions and top of the league at the moment.
“They’ve blitzed everybody in our pool so far. But the good news for us is that we’re going there with confidence after the win against Dragons last week.
“We had a great game against ‘Quins here in October where we both tried to play ball and we’re going to have the same mindset this week.
“It’s Heineken Cup rugby and we want to show people what we can do. It’s going to be difficult but we know the challenge facing us and we want to play our game.”
CONNACHT (v Harlequins): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Matthew Jarvis, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (capt), Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Michael Kearney, Eoghan Grace, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, James Loxton.