Ahead of Saturday’s sold-out interprovincial clash with Leinster at the Sportsground (kick-off 5.15pm), Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made two changes to the team that lined out for the win over Edinburgh three weeks ago.
Academy centre Peter Robb is handed his first GUINNESS PRO12 start and partners Bundee Aki in midfield. The 21-year-old Robb made his Connacht debut in November in the Challenge Cup game away to Russian side Enisei-STM. Saturday’s game will mark his tenth appearance in a Connacht jersey.
Niyi Adeolokun returns to the right wing after missing the Edinburgh match through injury and is the only other personnel change to the westerners’ line-up. The half-back pairing is once again made up of AJ MacGinty and Kieran Marmion, who made his Six Nations debut earlier this month.
The pack sees Ireland international Nathan White, who featured in all five Six Nations fixtures, pack down in the front row, while the 21-year-old Sean O’Brien from the Academy is again included in the back row with Jake Heenan and captain John Muldoon.
Internationals Robbie Henshaw, who only joined team training on Thursday, and Finlay Bealham are both named among the replacements. Front rower Bealham, who has featured in every Connacht game this season, is in line to make his 50th appearance for the province.
Connacht’s injury list currently includes both Jack Carty and Craig Ronaldson, while recent Ireland debutant Ultan Dillane has not yet recovered from a minor shoulder knock picked up during the Six Nations.
Commenting on the team selection and the visit of second-placed Leinster, Pat Lam said: “I have a lot of respect for who Leinster are and what they have achieved. There is a lot of quality right across the squad and I believe Leo (Cullen), in his first season as head coach, has done a tremendous job.
“Tomorrow, we are expecting a pretty physical and fired-up opposition. As a team who have history of winning at this stage of the season, it’s going to take a massive collective effort from us to come out on top.
“There’s certainly a huge buzz around this game tomorrow and we’re all really looking forward to it – it doesn’t get much better than playing in front of a sold-out Sportsground. Staying focused and channeling that excitement and energy into our structures and systems will give us the best chance of getting the points on offer.”
CONNACHT (v Leinster): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, Sean O’Brien, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Andrew Browne, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Shane O’Leary, Robbie Henshaw.