The Connacht team to face Zebre in the first away game of the season has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made six personnel changes to the side that lined out against Ospreys at the Sportsground last weekend.
Bundee Aki and Eoin Griffin swap positions in midfield while 22-year-old Cian Kelleher starts on the wing after making his Connacht debut at fullback in round 1. Caolin Blade is also reintroduced at scrum half.
Up front, Denis Buckley returns from injury at loose headprop while JP Cooney starts at tighthead in the absence of Finlay Bealham through illness this week. There is a new second row partnership of Lewis Stevenson and Andrew Browne.
Irish internationals Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Matt Healy are all included among the replacements while prop Conor Carey is in line to make his Connacht debut in Italy tomorrow afternoon.
Commenting on the upcoming game, Pat Lam said:
“Zebre are a team we know well having played them 12 times in the past four seasons. Our good record against them is due the respect we give them in our preparation and this week has been no different. With this being their first game home game of the season, we understand the tough challenge ahead of us on Saturday.
“Despite the injuries and changes in personnel, our focus has been on continued improvement throughout our game and our roles. We’re looking forward to taking another step up in our performance tomorrow.”
Connacht team to face Zebre, Saturday 17th September, Stadio Lanfranchi, 5:05pm (Irish time)
15 Tiernan O’Halloran
14 Niyi Adeolokun
13 Bundee Aki
12 Eoin Griffin
11 Cian Kelleher
10 Jack Carty
9 Caolin Blade
1 Denis Buckley
2 Tom McCartney
3 JP Cooney
4 Lewis Stevenson
5 Andrew Browne
6 Eoin McKeon
7 James Connolly
8 John Muldoon (captain)
16 Dave Heffernan
17 Ronan Loughney
18 Conor Carey
19 Ultan Dillane
20 Rory Moloney
21 Kieran Marmion
22 Shane O’Leary
23 Matt Healy
Injured/Unavailable: Finlay Bealham, Nathan White, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Jake Heenan, Sean O’Brien, Eoghan Masterson, John Cooney, Stephen Kerins, Conor Lowndes, Craig Ronaldson, Marnitz Boshoff, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Josh Rowland, Danie Poolman, Darragh Leader, Ciaran Gaffney.
Zebre v Connacht
Saturday September 17th 2016
At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 6.05pm local time (5.05pm Ireland & UK)
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 51st competition game)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (WRU), Riccardo Angelucci (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (FIR)