Ahead of Thursday’s trip to Rodney Parade to play the Newport Gwent Dragons, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made three personnel changes to the team that beat the Scarlets in the last round of GUINNESS PRO12 action.
AJ MacGinty will make his fifth start in a Connacht jersey this season, replacing the injured Jack Carty at out-half. Meanwhile, Bundee Aki shifts to outside centre to facilitate the introduction of Craig Ronaldson in the number 12 shirt and the only change to the pack sees Rodney Ah You come in to the front row.
Prop Finlay Bealham, lock Ultan Dillane and Ireland scrum half Kieran Marmion have all been released today by Joe Schmidt to join up with the Connacht squad for Thursday’s round 14 clash in Newport (kick-off 7.30pm).
Galway-born back rower Eoin McKeon has returned from injury to earn a place on the bench, while Academy centre Peter Robb is named among the reserve backs.
Commenting on the team selection and this week’s opposition, Pat Lam said: “With a short week for us in terms of preparation and travel, we began our planning for the Dragons before the break and the boys returned on Monday refreshed and eager to get back into their work.
“It’s great to have Kieran, Finlay and Ultan back from Irish camp for this game but given that they haven’t trained with us this week, they will add impact from the bench.
“The Dragons are in good form and are playing some great team rugby. It’s clear for us to see that they are a different side to the one we faced at the Sportsground in round 1. They have already beaten our fellow Irish provinces, Munster and Leinster, at Rodney Parade and were desperately unlucky to lose late on to Ulster in Belfast last week.
“So we are under no illusions as to how tough the challenge will be in Newport, and in tough conditions. Once again our focus will be on our team work and work ethic on and off the ball to enable us to put in a performance that will continue to keep us in the top four of the competition.”
CONNACHT (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Tiernan O’Halloran; Danie Poolman, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, George Naoupu, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Jake Heenan, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Peter Robb, Rory Parata.