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Connacht make seven changes for return to RaboDirect PRO12 rugby

Guinness PRO12 Editor

26 Oct 2012

As Connacht prepare to take on reigning champions Ospreys tomorrow, Head Coach Eric Elwood has named a side that shows seven changes from the one that started last weekend.

Two of those changes are positional with George Naoupu moving from his regular number 8 position to lock in place of an injured Mike McCarthy and Robbie Henshaw replacing the injured Eoin Griffin in the centre.

Mata Fifita replaces Dave McSharry and joins Henshaw in the new centre partnership.

19-year-old Darragh Leader earns his first competitive start for the province at full back. Leader, who has only recently been signed to the Connacht Academy, impressed as he came off the bench last week with the Connacht Eagles . The young Leader has represented Ireland at U19 level and is currently with the Ireland U20 squad.

Up front, loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson replaces Denis Buckley. Wilkinson is joined in the front row by tighthead Nathan White, who captains the side, and Jason Harris-Wright who earns his first competitive start of the season. The 24-year-old hooker has made a notable impression from the bench in both RaboDirect PRO12 clashes with Ulster and his former club Leinster. With Naoupu moving forward, Eoin McKeon now wears the number 8 jersey.

On the bench, former Stormers player Danie Poolman is set to make his first appearance for the province. Rodney Ah You and Dave Gannon also return to the bench as replacement forwards.

Connacht will take on the defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions Ospreys at Liberty Stadium tomorrow, Saturday 27th October; kick-off is at 2.30pm. The Welshmen have won their last three matches in the competition and Head Coach Eric Elwood is aware of the challenge Steve Tandy's side pose:

"Over the years, we've had huge physical encounters with the Welsh side and we'll be expecting the same this weekend. It's another big challenge but we take great encouragement from our performances of the last few weeks.

Last Saturday, we went toe-to-toe with the English champions and competed with them for the 80 minutes. We played some great rugby and we'll be looking to do the same this weekend against the Ospreys.

We know it's going to be a hugely physical battle but we're very much looking forward to the test. The goal for us is to keep improving and continue on our upward curve"

Connacht XV

15. Darragh Leader
14. Tiernan O'Halloran
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Mata Fifita
11. Fetu'u Vainikolo
10. Dan Parks
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Brett Wilkinson
2. Jason Harris-Wright
3. Nathan White (captain)
4. Michael Swift
5. George Naoupu
6. John Muldoon
7. Willie Faloon
8. Eoin McKeon

Replacements (from):

16. Adrian Flavin
17. Ronan Loughney
18. Rodney Ah You
19. Dave Gannon
20. Johnny O'Connor
21. David Moore
22. Miah Nikora
23. Danie Poolman