Head coach Pat Lam has made two personnel changes to his Connacht team to face Gloucester in Sunday’s European Champions Cup play-off game at Kingsholm (kick-off 3.30pm).
John Cooney, who was this week named in the Emerging Ireland squad, comes in to start at scrum half in the absence of the injured Kieran Marmion, while Ian Porter has been added to the replacements bench.
Marmion’s season is unfortunately over as he suffered a medial ligament tear to his left ankle against the Ospreys and is facing up to four weeks’ recovery time.
George Naoupu represents the only change to the province’s starting pack, slotting into the second row alongside Aly Muldowney.
Tighthead prop Rodney Ah You will run out for his 100th appearance for the province, packing down in a front row with Tom McCartney and Connacht Rugby Forward of the Year Denis Buckley, who was also named in the Emerging Ireland squad this week.
22-year-old Academy forward James Connolly, who made an appearance at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final last month, is once again included among the replacements.
Commenting on the team selection for Sunday’s clash with Gloucester, head coach Pat Lam said: “At this stage of the season, our small squad is pretty badly hit with injuries and that list of unavailable players has grown even further now with Kieran out for us as well.
“We’re going up against a quality Gloucester side stacked with international players and their top XV coming off the back of a week’s rest. There’s no doubt they have the advantage playing in their home ground so we know we will have to be at our very best as a team.
“Our season goal was to finish in the top six so we could qualify automatically for Champions Cup rugby next season. While seventh is a record finish for Connacht in the PRO12, we still have this opportunity to secure that final place so there’s huge motivation.
“Win this weekend against Gloucester and we’ll be at home the following Sunday in front of our home crowd. Connacht has never been in this position before. It’s knockout rugby. We may be battered and bruised but we’re massively excited by it.”
CONNACHT (v Gloucester): Tiernan O’Halloran; Fionn Carr, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, John Cooney; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, George Naoupu, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Andrew Browne, James Connolly, Ian Porter, Miah Nikora, Shane O’Leary.