New signing Jarrad Butler will make his competitive debut for Connacht on Saturday in the opening round of the GUINNESS PRO14 against Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm).
Bundee Aki also returns to the side in a centre partnership with Eoin Griffin as Connacht aim to get off to a winning start in Galway under new head coach Kieran Keane.
The team is further strengthened by the inclusion of Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham and fit-again lock Ultan Dillane in the tight five. Kieran Marmion – one of five Ireland-capped players in the XV – starts at half-back where he links up again with Jack Carty.
John Muldoon captains the province from number 8 in his 15th season with his native province. Eoghan Masterson joins him in the back row for the Championship opener along with debutant Jarrad Butler, the former Brumbie.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his first competitive game at the Sportsground, where he faces his former colleague Dave Rennie, Connacht head coach Keane said: “It’s ironic that we face Dave’s Glasgow side in my first game in charge. They will be playing an open expansive style of rugby as will we.
“There was an incredible atmosphere for our pre-season game at home to Bristol last week, I’m sure the guys will get a massive reception when they take to the field again on Saturday evening.”
A limited number of tickets are still available for the PRO14 opener on Saturday, with savings of up to 15% available when purchased online.
CONNACHT (v Glasgow Warriors): Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Sean O’Brien, Eoin McKeon, Conor McKeon, Craig Ronaldson, Tom Farrell.