Hooker Jason Harris-Wright has been chosen to captain Connacht in Saturday’s pre-season encounter with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm). The game will mark Kiwi lock Craig Clarke’s debut for the province.
Team captain Jason Harris-Wright (24) will have the support of new arrival and Super 15-winning lock Craig Clarke who gets his first start in Connacht colours this weekend.
In the backs, Fionn Carr switches to the full-back position with Tiernan O’Halloran reverting back to the right wing spot.
A late injury has forced winger Matt Healy to withdraw from the squad and Academy back Shane Layden will now start on the left wing.
Layden’s Academy colleague Conor Finn will form the centre partnership with Eoin Griffin, who was Connacht’s lone try scorer in last weekend’s 31-7 loss to the London Wasps in Galway.
The province’s head coach Pat Lam is still without a number of players with Gavin Duffy, Robbie Henshaw, David McSharry, Danie Poolman, Denis Buckley, James So’oialo and Kyle Tonetti among those currently on the unavailable/injured list.
Despite the back-to-back defeats to Castres Olympique and Wasps so far, Lam has been happy with the effort shown by the players.
“For me that’s what pre-season is all about – to find out where everyone is at, to give everyone an opportunity and I think we got some good answers there,” he said.
“I don’t see it as a negative (the result against Wasps), I just see it as part of their development and for us as coaches we know exactly the programme needed going forward.
“It was great to get a game like that and discover what guys can do. That’s all part of it.”
The Newcastle Falcons v Connacht match is not being televised but there will be score updates via the official Connacht Rugby Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.
CONNACHT (v Newcastle Falcons): Fionn Carr; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Conor Finn, Shane Layden; Dan Parks, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright (capt), Nathan White, Michael Kearney, Craig Clarke, Eoin McKeon, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon, Jake Heenan, Kieran Marmion, Miah Nikora, Brian Murphy, Steve Macauley.