Paul Boyle will captain Connacht for the first time when they entertain the Ospreys in round 8 of the Guinness PRO14 at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm).
The 23-year-old, who previously captained the Ireland Under-20s, has enjoyed a brilliant rise through the Connacht ranks, making his debut as a first-year Academy player against Munster in January 2018.
He was then rewarded with his first professional contract midway through the 2018/19 season and has gone on to play 44 times for the province.
Boyle, who hails from Gorey in County Wexford, captains the side from the number 8 position and will be flanked by Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver at the back of the scrum.
The front five is unchanged from last Sunday’s 47-12 victory away to Zebre, with Shane Delahunt starting at hooker, in between Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier, and Eoghan Masterson pairing up again with Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
Ballinasloe youngster Colm Reilly, last week’s player-of-the-match, continues at half-back, with Conor Fitzgerald coming in for his second start of the season at out-half.
The in-form Tom Daly remains at inside centre beside Sam Arnold, and Peter Sullivan returns to the starting XV in a back-three which features Alex Wootton, on the opposite wing, and Australian flyer John Porch at full-back.
Meanwhile, Academy player Sean O’Brien from Mullingar is in line to make his senior debut off the bench. The 22-year-old centre has been named among the replacements.
Commenting on the team selection and the game itself, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “Paul Boyle is a natural born leader and fully deserves the opportunity to lead out the squad for the first time.
“He’s been in tremendous form for us again this season and I’d like to congratulate him on the honour. We’ve also got Academy player Sean O’Brien potentially making his debut so it’s a big day for him too if called upon.”
He added: “It was really pleasing to see us bounce back like we did against Zebre, but now the focus is on backing that up with a similar display again this week.
“The Ospreys are a very good side who have come on a lot since last season, so it’s crucial we get a good start and build from there.”
CONNACHT (v Ospreys): John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Sam Arnold, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Colm Reilly; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier, Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury, Sean O’Brien, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (capt).
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler, Stephen Kerins, Sean O’Brien, Colm de Buitlear.