Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made 10 changes from last week as the westerners take on Newcastle Falcons in round 3 of the European Challenge Cup at the Sportsground on Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).
Jack Carty is retained at out-half and the 21-year-old Caolin Blade is handed the number 9 shirt for his first start of the season, having made an appearance from the bench in Krasnoyarsk last month.
There is a new centre partnership with Academy duo Rory Parata and Peter Robb lining out together. Niyi Adeolokun is promoted to the right wing, while Matt Healy, on the left, gets his first taste of European action this season. Galway man Tiernan O’Halloran will captain the side from full-back.
In the pack, there are just two players retained from last Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 loss at Cardiff Blues – Aly Muldowney and James Connolly who, this week, was one of three Academy players to sign a senior contract for next season.
Prop Finlay Bealham, now the only player to have been involved in every game this season, starts in a new front row alongside Jason Harris-Wright and Ireland international Nathan White.
Ultan Dillane returns to the second row to partner Muldowney, while Galway man Sean O’Brien earns his first senior start, forming the back row with Connolly and the experienced George Naoupu at number 8.
Daniel Qualter is included among the replacements, while Dave Heffernan will be required to cover the back row from the bench. Shane O’Leary and Danie Poolman have both returned from injury to take their places in the matchday squad.
Commenting on the team selection and the visit of pool rivals Newcastle, Pat Lam said: “With 18 players unavailable through injury from our European squad, it was certainly a challenge to piece together a matchday squad for tomorrow.
“We are forced to name the 23 remaining players which include three hookers in the squad as Dave (Heffernan) will be required to cover the back row. Thankfully Danie and Ian passed late fitness tests this morning to take their place on the bench. While it isn’t ideal, it’s simply another test for us to meet head on.
“Newcastle will bring their own strengths and we are expecting a very physical battle. Despite all the changes, if we work together as a team and stick to our structures tomorrow night, we’ll increase our chances of getting the job done.
“We’re really looking forward to playing back at the Sportsground in front of our home crowd again after a few weeks on the road.”
CONNACHT (v Newcastle Falcons): Tiernan O’Halloran (capt); Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Finlay Bealham, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, Sean O’Brien, James Connolly, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Rodney Ah You, Daniel Qualter, Dave Heffernan, Ian Porter, Shane O’Leary, Danie Poolman.