The Connacht Eagles team, sponsored by NUI Galway, has been named ahead of their departure to face Bristol in Sunday’s British & Irish Cup opener at Ashton Gate (kick-off 3pm).
Head coach Nigel Carolan has named a 22-man squad that includes a mixture of senior, Academy and development players.
Academy forward Eoghan Masterson will once again captain the side at number 8, while Connacht centurion Andrew Browne returns from injury for his first competitive game of the season.
Miah Nikora has been handed the reins at out-half and is joined by Leinster loanee John Cooney in the half-back pairing.
This will be the first ever competitive meeting between 2011 British & Irish Cup winners Bristol and Connacht Eagles, although Bristol did win a pre-season friendly in Galway 33-24 back on August 8, 2002.
Speaking about this weekend’s game which sees five changes to the side that beat Ulster Ravens 26-24, Carolan said: “We were happy with our opening day win against Ulster Ravens but we know Bristol pose an entirely new challenge.
“They are one of the most progressive teams in the English Championship and that’s been reflected in their unbeaten record that sees them sitting top of the table.
“We’ve trained well during the week ahead of our departure on Saturday and our guys are really looking forward to challenging themselves against quality opposition.
“It’s a tough pool with London Scottish and Pontypridd to come but we have enjoyed playing in this exciting competition the last two years. It’s been invaluable in terms of getting exposure to top class games for both our young and experienced pro players.”
CONNACHT EAGLES (v Bristol): Shane Layden; Fionn Carr, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Ciaran Gaffney; Miah Nikora, John Cooney; JP Cooney, Pat O’Toole, Jamie Dever, Andrew Browne, Daniel Qualter, Steve McVeigh, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (capt).
Replacements: Jack Dinneen, Jacob Walshe, Ultan Dillane, Cian Romaine, Caolin Blade, Conor McKeon, David Panter.