Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named his side for Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 first round clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.30pm).
Academy centre Rory Parata will make his PRO12 debut after starting in two pre-season games against Castres Olympique and Munster. Bundee Aki will partner the 21-year-old in midfield.
Up front, new flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua earns his first cap in a Connacht jersey, starting in a back row with captain John Muldoon and number 8 Eoghan Masterson.
Former Leinster lock Ben Marshall is likely to be sprung from the replacements bench for his first official Connacht appearance.
Commenting on the team selection and the visit of the Dragons, Pat Lam said: “After a rigorous but successful pre-season, the players really made selection difficult for us ahead of tomorrow’s game and that was pleasing.
“I’m delighted for young Rory Parata who has had a good off-season and impressed in the warm-up games. It just highlights that if you put the work in your chance will come.
“It’s always a tight and physical battle with the Dragons and we’re expecting nothing different tomorrow night with both sides looking to get off to a flying start.”
Connacht’s list of unavailable/injured players includes Ronan Loughney, Jake Heenan, Dave McSharry, Api Pewhairangi, Niyi Adeolokun, Darragh Leader and Ireland duo Nathan White and Robbie Henshaw.
CONNACHT (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Tiernan O’Halloran; Danie Poolman, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (capt), Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Ben Marshall, Eoin McKeon, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Fionn Carr.