Pat Lam has named his Connacht Rugby side to face Grenoble in the quarter final of the Challenge Cup at Stade des Alpes tomorrow (Saturday).
The head coach has made five personnel as well as seven positional changes from the side that lined out against Ulster in the PRO12 seven days ago.
Kieran Marmion and Danie Poolman are drafted into the back line with Matt Healy named to start at fullback for the second time this season. The former Ireland under-20’s scrum half, now wing, wore the number 15 shirt against Newcastle Falcons at the Sportsground back in December.
Healy’s move to fullback also allows Ireland international Robbie Henshaw rekindle his centre partnership with February’s Player of the Month Bundee Aki.
Shane O’Leary, who spent the 2013/14 season playing with Saturday’s French opponents, will make his third start for Connacht at outhalf, having lined out against Ulster last week and in December’s pool game away to Newcastle.
Up front, recent Ireland international debutants Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane start for the first time since their 6 Nations involvement.
The back row is reshuffled and features three Galway-born players with Sean O’Brien from the Academy coming in to start at blindside flanker. Eoin McKeon once again moves to openside while John Muldoon captains the side wearing the Number 8 shirt.
From the bench, prop JP Cooney could make his first European appearance of the current campaign, having recovered from the shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined for most of the season. Quinn Roux and Fionn Carr are also added to this week’s match day squad.
Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said:
“We have a few changes to the squad from last week but we are confident that we have a strong team to go over and execute our game plan against Grenoble. While it was great to welcome Kieran (Marmion) back from injury this week, it was frustrating to lose Jake (Heenan) who we had initially named to start. He was really unlucky to roll his other ankle in training which has ruled him out again.
“But we have a lot of confidence in the ability of Academy players Sean O’Brien and James Connolly who have the experience of performing in the jersey already this season. Playing in these big-stage games is fantastic for the continued development of all our players going forward.
“We understand the challenge we face traveling to play a confident Grenoble side in their home ground. But this is knock-out rugby and we are determined to bring a semi-final home to the Sportsground for our supporters.
“With two teams looking to play an attacking style of rugby, it will come down to the small margins in defence and who can take their opportunities. It’s set up to be a really entertaining game and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Connacht Rugby team to face Grenoble, Saturday April 9th, Stade des Alpes, 9:05pm. Live on BT Sport
15 Matt Healy
14 Niyi Adeolokun
13 Robbie Henshaw
12 Bundee Aki
11 Danie Poolman
10 Shane O’Leary
9 Kieran Marmion
1 Denis Buckley
2 Tom McCartney
3 Finlay Bealham
4 Ultan Dillane
5 Andrew Browne
6 Sean O’Brien
7 Eoin McKeon
8 John Muldoon (Captain)
16 Dave Heffernan
17 Ronan Loughney
18 JP Cooney
19 Quinn Roux
20 James Connolly
21 John Cooney
22 Peter Robb
23 Fionn Carr