John Porch will make his first competitive start for Connacht after he was named in the starting line-up for Friday night’s GUINNESS PRO14 match against the Dragons at Rodney Parade (kick-off 7.35pm).
The inclusion of the 25-year-old Australian winger is the only change to the team that defeated Benetton Rugby last weekend. The Connacht side ran in six tries for the 41-5 bonus point win in their first home game of the PRO14 campaign.
Porch features in a back-three that includes fellow winger Matt Healy and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, while Kyle Godwin and Peter Robb continue as the midfield tandem. Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade, who both impressed last time out in contributing 19 points between them, continue their half-back partnership.
The province’s tight five is unchanged for the third straight game, with the Tom McCartney-led front row backed up by locks Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux. Captain Jarrad Butler continues at openside flanker, alongside Eoghan Masterson and Paul Boyle in the loose forwards.
Ahead of the third round trip to Newport, head coach Andy Friend said: “I was really pleased with the performance last weekend, so with a six-day turnaround we’ve selected much the same squad to keep the momentum going.
“We’ve handed John Porch his first start after his competitive debut last weekend, and Cillian Gallagher is among the replacements after some good performances for Connacht Eagles (in the Celtic Cup), so we are continuing to build the depth required for a long season.
“Rodney Parade is a tough place to go, and with the Dragons playing a more expansive game this season, we know our defence has to be on top form, but we also need to be clinical in attack when opportunities arise. This is our last game in this block before a short break so we’re aiming to finish on a high before our run of 13 weeks of games.”
CONNACHT (v Dragons): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.