Head coach Pat Lam has named his side for Connacht’s return to the European Challenge Cup. French side La Rochelle visit the Sportsground on Saturday evening (kick-off 5pm).
Returning from injury, hooker Jason Harris-Wright will make his seasonal debut in a pack that sees five personnel changes from last weekend’s GUINNESS PRO12 clash with Benetton Treviso.
The all-new front row includes experienced props Ronan Loughney and Nathan White, while Aly Muldowney is named in the second row for his third start of the season.
Willie Faloon will line out at openside flanker which allows Eoin McKeon to revert to number 8 and complete the back row with captain John Muldoon.
With an average age of just under 23, the back-line sees just one change as Danie Poolman comes on to the right wing.
At full-back and outhalf respectively, Connacht-born backs Darragh Leader and Jack Carty retain their starting berths for the seventh consecutive week since the season started.
The most notable inclusion on the bench is the return of Galway man Andrew Browne who played his first competitive game of the season for Connacht Eagles last weekend. Centre David McSharry is in line to earn his 50th Connacht cap off the bench.
Commenting on the team selection and Saturday’s round 1 opponents, Pat Lam said: “As people will see, we’ve backed up our desire to perform and compete in this European competition with a strong team selected. This is a great opportunity to test ourselves against different opposition and continue to build as a team.
“With the physical challenge expected from La Rochelle, it was an opportune time to rotate our front rowers and make some changes to the pack.
“Once again, it’s a very young back-line but these guys have been performing week in, week out and have contributed greatly to a good start to our season.
“We want to retain our unbeaten record at home and are really looking forward to another special occasion with our supporters at the Sportsground.
“La Rochelle have never have been here to play before so it would be nice to be able to give them a warm, warm welcome.
“A bouncing Sportsground for our last home game for another five weeks would be a massive lift for us and it would allow us to kick off into this Europe Challenge Cup in the best possible way.”
CONNACHT (v La Rochelle): Darragh Leader; Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Ronan Loughney, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: David Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, George Naoupu, Ian Porter, David McSharry, Niyi Adeolokun.