Sligo native and Connacht Academy player Cillian Gallagher is set to make his first start for Connacht in their Challenge Cup clash away to Brive on Saturday (kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish time).
Cillian Gallagher, who made his debut off the bench during October’s Challenge Cup win over Worcester Warriors, starts at blindside flanker in a back row that includes Eoghan Masterson at openside and captain John Muldoon at number 8.
The Connacht starting XV sees a new centre pairing in recent debutant Pita Ahki and newly-capped Ireland international Bundee Aki, who returns to the side after his involvement in Ireland’s GUINNESS Series victories over South Africa and Argentina. Jack Carty also comes back in at number 10.
Shane Delahunt is retained at hooker where he is flanked by loosehead Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham at tighthead in an unchanged front row. Quinn Roux returns to the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, while Gallagher is the fourth personnel change to the side that went down 24-10 to Zebre last week.
Connacht have got off to a good start so far in the Challenge Cup and are top of Pool 5 with nine points after two rounds. The back-to-back fixtures against their French opponents are likely to have a huge bearing on who qualifies for the knockout stages.
Speaking ahead of the round 3 game, Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy said: “We are expecting a huge physical battle against Brive on Saturday. They will have a big strong pack and will look to maul at every opportunity. We’ll need to match that physicality and we have been really focusing on that in training during the week.”
CONNACHT (v Brive): Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, Eoghan Masterson, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, James Connolly, James Mitchell, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader.