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Kearney Is Connacht’s Only Change

Kearney Is Connacht’s Only Change

Pat Lam has named his team for Connacht’s European Challenge Cup round 3 clash with Bayonne at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).

The Connacht head coach has made just one change to the side that defeated the Scarlets 14-8 in the GUINNESS PRO12 last weekend.

Lock Mick Kearney comes in to boost the pack in place of the injured Andrew Browne, while Michael Swift, capped 266 times for the province, has been included among the replacements.

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Jack Carty is named at out-half for his tenth start of the season and is partnered by Ireland international Kieran Marmion.

Mils Muliaina and Bundee Aki will run out at the Sportsground for the third time in as many weeks following back-to-back PRO12 wins in Galway.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Academy scrum half Caolin Blade (pictured below)named on the bench in the absence of the injured Ian Porter and Leinster-tied John Cooney – is in line to make his third senior appearance.

Commenting on the team selection and Connacht’s French opponents, Pat Lam said: “Protecting our home ground is one of our main priorities and that drive continues this week. We have chosen a strong side to face Bayonne on Saturday in what is our last home game of the (calendar) year.

“We’ve stated top six in the PRO12 as a big goal but we also have other aspirations to reach the knockout stages in the Challenge Cup. This will require input from the entire squad over the next fortnight. We know we will have to rely on everyone going into a difficult period of games over the Christmas period.

“Bayonne are a good side who have taken some big scalps in the Top 14 this season, namely Toulouse and Clermont. There are no easy wins in this pool and we are expecting a bruising battle on Saturday against a physically massive team.

“They are a typical French side and we expect them to be very direct so we will need to put them under pressure from the outset and cut them down.

“Again, I have to praise the home support over the last number of weeks. They have been phenomenal and it gives us all such a big lift. We want to make sure we protect our ground again this week in the last home game until the New Year.”

CONNACHT (v Bayonne): Mils Muliaina; Danie Poolman, Bundee Aki, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Mick Kearney, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon (capt), Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Michael Swift, Willie Faloon, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.