Connacht have been boosted by the return of captain Jarrad Butler to the team to face Gloucester in the Heineken Champions Cup at Kingsholm on Sunday (kick-off 1pm).
Butler starts at number 8 having come off the bench last week following a knee injury. He joins a back row that includes Eoghan Masterson and the in-form Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Elsewhere in the forwards, there is a highly experienced front row with hooker Tom McCartney flanked by Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham. Ireland international Quinn Roux is joined in the the second row by former Leicester Tiger Joe Maksymiw.
Bundee Aki has a new partner in midfield with Peter Robb coming into the side, while a late injury to Matt Healy sees John Porch switching to full-back. The former Australian Sevens player, who scored his first two tries for Connacht from the wing last weekend, has Kyle Godwin and Niyi Adeolokun for company in the back-three.
Jack Carty slots back in at out-half where he renews his half back partnership with the impressive Caolin Blade. Excited for the European double header, head coach Andy Friend said: “The back-to-back fixtures in this competition are always critical and the next two weeks against Gloucester will decide our Champions Cup season.
“Next week (back in Galway) will be a huge occasion but first we have to get a result on Sunday afternoon. For now, we are solely focused on that away leg and we are travelling to Gloucester with the belief that we can win the game.
“It is great to have Jarrad back in the side. As our captain he has a massive influence on the group, and his presence will be important for such a big occasion.
“We’ve also made a few positional changes. Matt Healy picked up a knock in training so John Porch will slot in at full-back and Kyle Godwin moves to the wing. We have used over forty players so far this season so we know the depth that we have and that will be tested again in the coming weeks.”
CONNACHT (v Gloucester): John Porch; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Kyle Godwin; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.