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White To Captain Much-Changed Connacht Team

White To Captain Much-Changed Connacht Team

The Connacht team to face Exeter Chiefs in round 2 of the European Challenge Cup has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made eight personnel changes to the side that beat La Rochelle 48-12 last weekend.

Loosehead prop Denis Buckley is recalled for Saturday’s pool game at Sandy Park (kick-off 3pm), while tighthead Nathan White has been handed the captaincy in the absence of John Muldoon, who is rested this week having started every game prior to this one.

The tournament’s most-capped player, Michael Swift, is named in the second row for his second appearance of the season. He is partnered by the returning Michael Kearney.

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Galway man Andrew Browne starts in the back row with openside flanker Willie Faloon and George Naoupu who will anchor the scrum at number 8.

There are changes to the back-line with the introduction of Niyi Adeolokun, Dave McSharry and Ian Porter.

Craig Ronaldson, who started the last three games at inside centre, has this week been handed the reins at out-half while Jack Carty is included among the replacements.

Notable changes to the bench include the call-up of young forward Daniel Qualter and Academy scrum half Caolin Blade who are named in the matchday squad for the first time this season. Winger Fionn Carr is in line to earn his 100th Connacht cap.

Commenting on the team selection and Saturday’s opponents, Pat Lam said: “Once again we have a very tough test in front of us and on the road. Exeter are flying high in the Premiership and we expect them to name a very strong side at home.

“It’s going to be a great match because you have two teams that I believe are quite similar in the way they work extremely hard for each other and rely on team work.

“It’s good to be able to bring the experience and size of Michael (Swift), Mick (Kearney) and Andrew (Browne) into what is going to be another physical challenge. Their availability allows us to use our squad effectively ahead of another tough game away to the Ospreys six days later.

“After playing well at inside centre for the last few games, Craig (Ronaldson) gets a well-deserved opportunity to lead the team from outhalf, with the experience of Dave McSharry outside him.

“We’ve been pleased with the performances of Danny (Qualter) and young Caolin (Blade) with the Eagles team this season and it’s great for both of them to get an opportunity this week.”

CONNACHT (v Exeter Chiefs): Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun, Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry, Danie Poolman; Craig Ronaldson, Ian Porter; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (capt), Michael Swift, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Daniel Qualter, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Fionn Carr.