Ahead of Connacht’s trip to Stadio di Monigo on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm local time/6.30pm Irish time), head coach Pat Lam has made 10 personnel changes to the team that defeated Munster 12 days ago.
Connacht-born players Jack Carty and Tiernan O’Halloran both return from injury to start in a back-line that also sees the introduction of winger Fionn Carr and scrum half John Cooney. Rory Parata is named to start in an Academy centre partnership with Peter Robb.
Up front, props Ronan Loughney and Rodney Ah You start in the front row with hooker Tom McCartney who captains the side for the second time this season.
Quinn Roux and Andrew Browne make up a new second row partnership, while the back row is also changed with the return of openside flanker Jake Heenan from injury. Eoin McKeon shifts to number 8 with regular skipper John Muldoon named on the bench.
Caolin Blade and the fit-again AJ MacGinty are included amongst the replacement backs alongside Ireland international Robbie Henshaw.
Commenting on the team selection and the importance of the round 21 clash in Italy, Pat Lam said: “We’re under no illusions when it comes to the challenge we face in trying to secure a semi-final spot on Friday night in Italy. Treviso are desperate for points to get them into next year’s Champions Cup. This is their last home game before they travel to play Leinster in the RDS so we know which game they will be targeting for the crucial points.
“However, we’re very excited to be playing for so much at this time of the year. As well as a maiden semi-final place, we have a great opportunity to be the only team to have stayed in the top four for all 22 rounds of the league competition.
“Considering we have had to change the starting team for every round it would be a great testament to the level of consistency we have reached all season as a squad.
“With some players returning and unfortunately losing a few others to injury, we see a much-changed team again this week. But the expectation remains that those selected have a responsibility to execute their roles and work hard for the team. This will give us the best chance to secure the points and some very special outcomes for Connacht Rugby.”
Matt Healy suffered a minor back injury last week to rule him out of selection for the Treviso game. Connacht’s injury list also includes Denis Buckley, Bundee Aki, Nathan White, Ben Marshall, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson, Craig Ronaldson, Dave McSharry, Danie Poolman, Darragh Leader and Ciaran Gaffney.
CONNACHT (v Benetton Treviso): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Fionn Carr; Jack Carty, John Cooney; Ronan Loughney, Tom McCartney (capt), Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne, Sean O’Brien, Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon, Caolin Blade, AJ MacGinty, Robbie Henshaw.