Ahead of Saturday’s European Challenge Cup round 2 match against Brive at the Sportsground (kick-off 5pm), Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made 13 changes to the team that started in Siberia last weekend.
However, 13 of the 23-man matchday squad that will line out on Saturday evening made the seven-day round trip to Russia last week.
Bundee Aki and Rory Parata, one of the try scorers against Enisei-STM, are retained in the back-line, while Jack Carty, who was also in Russia, is handed the reins at out-half. The Athlone man is joined by Ireland international Kieran Marmion at half-back.
Full-back Tiernan O’Halloran will captain the side for the second time this season, while Robbie Henshaw and Danie Poolman also return to boost the side.
Up front, Jason Harris-Wright will make his seasonal debut after returning from long-term injury. The fit-again hooker is joined in the front row by Ireland internationals Ronan Loughney and Nathan White, who makes his 50th appearance for the province.
Having lined out for Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup last Saturday, Ben Marshall returns from injury to start in the second row alongside Galway man Andrew Browne. The back row is made up of Eoghan Masterson, October’s Player of the Month Nepia Fox-Matamua and Eoin McKeon.
All of the replacements for this weekend, including try-scoring winger Niyi Adeolokun (pictured below) and 19-year-old Academy prop Conan O’Donnell, were involved in the 31-14 win over Enisei-STM six days ago.
Commenting on the team selection and the visit of French outfit Brive, Pat Lam said: “With injuries to players, we knew before the trip to Russia that we would need guys to double up for rounds 1 and 2 and we were prepared for that.
“While we weren’t prepared for the shortened three-day week, we have just said all week that we can’t control these things and I am impressed with the way the management and players have fronted up to get ready for this game as best we can.
“We had later starts this week and trained into the evenings to allow the guys coming back from Russia to recover as much as possible. The attitude has been really positive and upbeat. There is huge competition for places in this squad and players are raring to go.
“Three days spent in airports and hotels gave us a good bit of time to build on our analysis on Brive and we had a good look at their win over Newcastle. We know that they are going to be very physical and a good challenge for us.
“We are really proud of our home record this season and we are looking forward to being back in front of our home supporters in the warmth of Galway on Saturday.”
Connacht v Brive match tickets are available to buy here.
CONNACHT (v Brive): Tiernan O’Halloran (capt); Rory Parata, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Ronan Loughney, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Ben Marshall, Andrew Browne, Eoghan Masterson, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Conan O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Daniel Qualter, George Naoupu, Ian Porter, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.