Back rower Sean O’Brien and lock Gavin Thornbury have both returned from injury to start for Andy Friend’s Connacht against Zebre at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm).
Centre Eoin Griffin and lock Quinn Roux, who came off the bench against Glasgow Warriors last Saturday, are the other two changes to the side that lost by the narrowest of margins in the opening round of the GUINNESS PRO14.
Sean O’Brien comes into a back row that includes captain Jarrad Butler at openside and Academy player Paul Boyle who moves to number 8 for his second start of the season. New signing Colby Fainga’a increases Connacht’s back row options as he is named among the replacements for the visit of the Italians – match tickets are available to buy here.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half-back partnership with returning Ireland international Kieran Marmion added to the matchday 23. In-form winger Cian Kelleher features in an unchanged back-three with Matt Healy and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
Following confirmation of the team line-up, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “We have picked a strong side again this week and I’m satisfied that we are seeing some real competition in the squad. With the Eagles side playing Munster in the new Celtic Cup, all of our available players will get game-time this weekend.
“We are well aware of the challenge that Zebre pose. From what I have seen of them they are a big physical side who are well able to throw the ball around. We are expecting another big crowd at the Sportsground and a similar atmosphere to what we witnessed last weekend.”
CONNACHT (v Zebre): Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Kieran Marmion, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.