The Connacht team to face Zebre in the first away game of the season has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made six personnel changes to the side that lined out against Ospreys last weekend.
Bundee Aki and Eoin Griffin swap positions in midfield while 22-year-old Cian Kelleher starts on the left wing after making his Connacht debut at fullback in round 1. Caolin Blade is also reintroduced at scrum half.
Up front, Denis Buckley returns from injury at loosehead prop and JP Cooney starts at tighthead in the absence of Finlay Bealham who misses out due to illness this week. There is a new second row partnership of Lewis Stevenson and Andrew Browne.
Ireland internationals Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Matt Healy are all included among the replacements, while prop Conor Carey is in line to make his Connacht debut in Italy on Saturday evening (kick-off 6.05pm local time/5.05pm irish time).
Commenting on the round 3 game, Pat Lam said: “Zebre are a team we know well having played them 12 times in the past four seasons. Our good record against them is due the respect we give them in our preparation and this week has been no different.
“With this being their first game home game of the season, we understand the tough challenge ahead of us on Saturday. Despite the injuries and changes in personnel, our focus has been on continued improvement throughout our game and our roles. We’re looking forward to taking another step up in our performance tomorrow.”
CONNACHT (v Zebre): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Eoin Griffin, Cian Kelleher; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, JP Cooney, Lewis Stevenson, Andrew Browne, Eoin McKeon, James Connolly, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Rory Moloney, Kieran Marmion, Shane O’Leary, Matt Healy.