Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named his side to face Zebre in round 5 of the Heineken Cup at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 3.40pm).
There are just two personnel changes to the westerners’ starting line-up this week, with both of those switches occurring in the pack.
Jake Heenan, who missed out on the last two games due to injury, is named to start in the back row. John Muldoon returns to his regular position of blindside flanker, having lined out at openside in Heenan’s absence.
Portumna man Muldoon will also captain the side for this round 5 clash after Craig Clarke was ruled out with a neck injury sustained against Leinster last time out.
In the New Zealander’s place, Andrew Browne slots into the second row to partner Michael Kearney.
In the front row, Sligo-born hooker Sean Henry, whose last game was against Toulouse in the home Heineken Cup tie last month, has returned from injury to start against the Italians.
The same all-Irish qualified back-line that started against Leinster is selected to face Zebre, with Kieran Marmion at scrum half, Jack Carty at out-half, Eoin Griffin and Robbie Henshaw in midfield and Matt Healy, Fionn Carr and Darragh Leader in the back-three.
Mayo man Gavin Duffy is named on the replacements bench.
Speaking about the team selection, the province’s boss Pat Lam said: “It’s no secret that we were frustrated with the manner in which we lost the game last week.
“But as everyone saw, there were some positives from that game, including the encouraging performances from our young back-line.
“We have decided to retain this selection for the game against Zebre – another huge challenge. This is Jack’s first taste of Heineken Cup rugby and also a first start for young Darragh (Leader) in the competition. It’s another big boost to their development as young Irish and Connacht-born players.
“It’s fantastic to welcome back Jake (Heenan) and Sean (Henry) to the matchday team. It’s a long season and the last numbers of games have been extremely physical, taking its toll on some of our players.
“We’ve had to plan without Craig (Clarke) this week but getting some players back from injury has meant we have the strength and depth to make the necessary changes.”
He added: “There’s a huge sense of anticipation around this game. We’re still alive in Europe but we need to make sure we are focused this week and do everything we can to get a good win at home against Zebre.
“We are not underestimating them. They are a team that have been improving with every game and they deserved their win against Treviso last week. They’ll be coming here full of confidence looking for their first ever win in the Heineken Cup.
“With the support of the special Sportsground crowd, it would be fantastic to do it this week against Zebre and then hopefully go further in the competition.”
Connacht have won all three of their meetings with Zebre in the European competition, including a 33-6 win away from home in round 2.
A victory this week would keep Lam’s charges alive in Europe, with a game to play against Saracens for qualification from Pool 3.
Tickets for Connacht v Zebre this weekend can be purchased online from tickets.ie, from the Connacht Rugby Ticket Office at the Sportsground or from Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.
Adult tickets start at €;30 while it is €;10 for all juniors.
CONNACHT (v Zebre): Darragh Leader; Fionn Carr, Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Nathan White, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (capt), Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, George Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Dan Parks, Gavin Duffy.