Ireland second row Quinn Roux is set to captain Connacht for the first time when they play Bordeaux-Bègles at Stade Chaban-Delmas in their final European Challenge Cup pool game on Saturday (kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time).
Quinn Roux has played 90 times for Connacht since making his debut in 2014 and signed a two-year extension to his contract earlier in the season. Andy Friend’s team selection for the crunch round 6 clash also includes a debut for Academy scrum half Stephen Kerins.
Kerins, who is 22 and hails from Sligo, forms a new-look half-back partnership with Australian out-half David Horwitz. Two of Connacht’s Ireland Six Nations call-ups, Jack Carty and Caolin Blade, are among the replacements, while two more, Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell, combine in midfield.
Darragh Leader is the only change to the back-three which is completed by Matt Healy and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, while there are six alterations up front – including the return of number 8 Eoin McKeon who starts his first match since his shoulder injury against Glasgow Warriors in September.
Finlay Bealham and James Connolly are the only forwards retained from last Saturday’s tense 20-18 win over Pool 3 leaders Sale whom Connacht are now level with on 17 points. Bealham has Peter McCabe and Shane Delahunt alongside him in the front row, with Gavin Thornbury partnering skipper Roux, and Gorey youngster Paul Boyle brought in at blindside flanker.
Eoin Griffin returns from injury to feature on the bench along with hooker Jonny Murphy who is named in a Connacht matchday squad for the first time. Friend’s charges travel to France knowing that a win will guarantee them a place in the quarter-finals.
“We know that a win of any description will secure a quarter-final spot,” explained the Connacht boss. “Achieving any win away in France is difficult. French teams pride themselves on their home record and make it difficult for the opposition and we expect Bordeaux to be no different.
“Having said that, we will be sticking to the approach that has served us well this season and we will be focusing on our own game. We haven’t really looked at all the different permutations (and potential opponents), all we know is we need to get to Bordeaux and do a job. Ideally it would be a bonus point win but a win is all we’re focusing on at the minute.”
CONNACHT (v Bordeaux-Bègles): Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; David Horwitz, Stephen Kerins; Peter McCabe, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (capt), Paul Boyle, James Connolly, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.