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Fox-Matamua To Make Connacht Debut Against Castres

Fox-Matamua To Make Connacht Debut Against Castres

Pat Lam has named a young team for Connacht’s pre-season clash with Castres Olympique in France on Friday night. The game, which is part of the Challenge Vaquerin, kicks off at 8pm local time/7pm Irish time at Saint-Affrique.

As the Connacht management team continue to blend the new summer signings and Academy players into the squad, the starting line-up shows a combination of youth and experience and will come up against a top French side just eight days out from the start of their Top 14 campaign.

Uncapped Academy centre Rory Parata will start in the back-line on the same day he celebrates his 21st birthday in France. The Galwegians clubman will link up with Bundee Aki in midfield, while Shane O’Leary and Emerging Ireland player John Cooney make up the half-back pairing.

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Tiernan O’Halloran also returns to the fray after Emerging Ireland’s Tbilisi Cup campaign in Georgia and starts in a back-three with Darragh Leader and Danie Poolman.

Up front, new signing Nepia Fox-Matamua will have his first outing in a Connacht shirt. He is named in a back row with Eoin McKeon and Eoghan Masterson who will captain the side in France. The 22-year-old Masterson, a graduate of the Connacht Academy, was one of the nine Connacht players who played in the Tbilisi Cup.

Commenting on the team selection and Friday’s game, head coach Pat Lam said: “Castres are just a week out from the start of their Top 14 campaign so we’re excited to have a tough encounter away from home. This is a great opportunity for us to take the learnings from last week (against Grenoble) and improve.

“As a coaching team, we are encouraging strong competition throughout the squad and this is a perfect chance for all players to stand up to the challenge, and push for a starting place in the team.”

CONNACHT (v Castres Olympique): Darragh Leader; Tiernan O’Halloran, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman; Shane O’Leary, John Cooney; Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Rodney Ah You, Ben Marshall, Daniel Qualter, Eoin McKeon, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson (capt).

Replacements: Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Shane Delahunt, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux *, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon, James Connolly, Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Api Pewharangi, Jack Carty, Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion.

* Quinn Roux was a late addition to the traveling squad. Dave McSharry was withdrawn late due to a shoulder injury picked up in training on Tuesday. A further medical update will be provided next week.