Connacht head coach Kieran Keane has made three changes to his team to face Brive in Saturday’s Challenge Cup clash at the Sportsground (kick-off 3pm).
Darragh Leader comes into the side at full-back, James Connolly is in at openside flanker and James Mitchell makes his first start for the province at scrum half. Connacht, who were 38-31 bonus point winners away to Brive last weekend, sit top of Pool 5 after three rounds, and a home victory tomorrow would put them in an excellent position to secure a home quarter-final.
Sligo native and Academy player Cillian Gallagher is retained in the starting XV at blindside after making his first start last Saturday in France. For the second time this season, Eoghan Masterson will captain the westerners from number 8.
There is a huge amount of experience on the bench with Tom McCartney, regular skipper John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, who has signed a contract extension with Connacht up to the end of the 2019/20 season, and Tiernan O’Halloran named among the replacements.
In advance of the reverse fixture with the French outfit, Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan said: “We are hoping to use the win over Brive last weekend to kick us off to another good run of form. We have some big games coming up and maintaining a level of consistency is what we are aiming to achieve.
“We can’t afford to be complacent though. We haven’t played at home in a few weeks, so the lads are looking forward to being back out in front of a festive home crowd and producing the performance that can achieve a good result.”
CONNACHT (v Brive): Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, James Mitchell; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (capt).
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Tiernan O’Halloran.