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Muliaina To Captain Connacht Against La Rochelle

Muliaina To Captain Connacht Against La Rochelle

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made six changes – four of them up front – to his team to face La Rochelle in the final pool game of the European Challenge Cup.

The westerners, who are still in the mix to secure one of the three best runner-up spots and a place in the quarter final, travel to France for the Saturday evening fixture (kick-off 6.30pm local time/5.30pm Irish time).

Full-back Mils Muliaina will captain the side for the first time this weekend, with regular skipper John Muldoon, who has started 16 of 18 games this season, named on the bench.

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Darragh Leader comes on to the right wing to allow Danie Poolman to shift to outside centre in the absence of Robbie Henshaw, while the 22-year-old Conor Finn (pictured below) wears the number 12 jersey.

Up front, the props are changed with Ronan Loughney and Nathan White, who both just signed new two year deals with the province, coming in. Tighthead White, who was yesterday named in the 46-man Ireland squad ahead of the RBS 6 Nations, makes his return to the senior team after a ten-week absence due to injury.

Galway men Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon represent the other changes to the pack.

Commenting on the team selection and the province’s bid to reach the quarter-finals, head coach Pat Lam said: “With injuries to four of our midfielders, the versatility of Danie sees him move to outside centre while young Conor gets another opportunity after an impressive starting performance in our last game in France against Bayonne.

“With this being our tenth consecutive game at the end of a very busy block of fixtures, we felt it was important to bring in fresh legs up front against another big, physical forward pack in La Rochelle.

“The fact that the changes here sees all senior and experienced guys come in just highlights the competition for places we have this season in some positions.

“With the rotation of John and Nathan just coming back from injury, Mils was the clear choice to lead the side this week. As someone who has captained both the All Blacks and the Chiefs, his experience and influence on and off the park will be crucial for us tomorrow in a tough environment.

“This is knockout football already and we have prepared accordingly with a simple focus of getting the job done and reaching the last-eight.”

CONNACHT (v La Rochelle): Mils Muliaina (capt); Darragh Leader, Danie Poolman, Conor Finn, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Ronan Louhgney, Tom McCartney, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne, Eoin McKeon, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Danny Qualter, John Muldoon, Caolin Blade, Miah Nikora, Niyi Adeolokun.