The Connacht team to face Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5pm) has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to the side that gained a bonus point win over Zebre just five days ago.
The 20-year-old Robbie Henshaw has been released from Ireland camp to take up the position of full-back in an otherwise unchanged Connacht back-line.
Scrum half Kieran Marmion is in line to earn his 50th cap on Saturday, having played in every Connacht game since his debut at the beginning of the 2012/13 season and starting in all but two of those fixtures.
Up front, Aly Muldowney replaces Michael Swift for his fourth start of the season. The 6ft 5in lock will partner Michael Kearney in the second row.
Galway-born Eoin McKeon makes a welcome return from injury to start at number 8 in a back row unit which includes Academy forward Eoghan Masterson and captain John Muldoon.
Veteran prop Nathan White is named on the bench, while Connacht centurion Frank Murphy gets the nod as the reserve scrum half.
Speaking about the team selection and the visit of the Italian side to Galway, Connacht’s Pat Lam said: “With another six-day turnaround this week it’s important to have fresh legs available in Robbie (Henshaw) and players like Eoin (McKeon) coming back from injury.
“Denis (Buckley) and Rodney (Ah You) both put in man-of-the-match performances in the last three games and they deservedly retain their starting spots this week. But it’s great to be able to call on the experience of Nathan (White) from the bench.
“Aly (Muldowney) has been training and playing very well these last few weeks and he deserves his chance to start against Treviso tomorrow.
“It’s also such a great achievement for young Kieran (Marmion) to have reached the 50-cap milestone. The fact that he has played 50 consecutive games since his senior debut is testament to his ability, his durability and his sheer toughness.
“This week, coming up against Treviso, has been all about focus. Coming off the back of two wins, we understand what we need to do ourselves to make it three in-a-row.
“Against Ulster last week and also when we played them in October, Treviso showed what they’re made of and the type of challenge they present. Going into the break we want to finish off this block of games on a high – for us and for our supporters.”
Connacht v Benetton Treviso will not be televised so the only way to catch the action is to get down to the Sportsground.
Tickets for the round 16 fixture are available online from tickets.ie, from the Connacht Rugby office and from Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.
Connacht Rugby are launching their ‘Strength in Numbers’ campaign this week. The province will hold a celebration of Women’s rugby at the Connacht v Treviso game on Saturday.
This date was specifically chosen to coincide with International Women’s Day and the Ireland Women’s team’s historic debut appearance at the Aviva Stadium the following weekend.
The event will involve a series of player interviews, information stands for potential recruits, and some informal introductory skills sessions, and should help propel Women’s rugby firmly into the local spotlight. Go to www.connachtrugby.ie/women for more information.
CONNACHT (v Benetton Treviso): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Fionn Carr; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: David Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Danie Poolman.