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Robb And MacGinty To Start For Connacht In Siberia

Robb And MacGinty To Start For Connacht In Siberia

Head coach Pat Lam has named his team for Connacht’s European Challenge Cup opening round encounter with Enisei-STM in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Saturday (kick-off 3pm local time/8am Irish time).

21-year-old Academy centre Peter Robb will make his Connacht debut at the Central Stadium, starting in a midfield partnership with Bundee Aki.

USA international out-half AJ MacGinty (pictured below) starts for the westerners for the first time, with Ian Porter making up the half-back pairing.

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Up front, John Muldoon captains the side from the back row where he is joined by George Naoupu and Academy flanker James Connolly, who makes his seasonal debut having played in three European games last season.

From the replacements bench, Galway-born Academy forward Sean O’Brien is in line to earn his first Connacht cap, while it will be a seasonal debut for both Daniel Qualter and Caolin Blade should they be called upon.

Commenting on the team selection and the clash with the Russian club, Pat Lam said: “We said from the start that this was going to be a massive mental challenge for everybody involved, but I must say that the boys have handled the challenges thrown at them really well so far.

“We have adjusted to the environment as best we can in three days and have done all the necessary preparation ahead of tomorrow’s game.

“We talked a lot about the weather but I think we underestimated how cold it actually would be. It was a shock to all of us! Tomorrow it could hit as low as -22 degrees, so again it’s another test of our mental toughness.

“This is a big test for the guys selected tomorrow but if we nail our detail and have the right mindset, we will put pressure on a side that will be hugely motivated in their first European game.

“We appreciate how important it was for Enisei to have a game in their home city. It’s an historical game as the team located furthest west (in Europe) meets the team furthest east and we’re proud and excited to be a part of it.  

“It’s been a fascinating few days, and a lot of hard work has gone into getting us here. Now, it’s all about fronting up tomorrow.”

CONNACHT (v Enisei-STM): Darragh Leader; Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Niyi Adeolokun; AJ MacGinty, Ian Porter; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), James Connolly, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Conan O’Donnell, Daniel Qualter, Sean O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Craig Ronaldson.