Head Coach Pat Lam has named his squad for the opening round of the GUINNESS PRO12 against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground tomorrow, Saturday, KO 5pm.

In making their competitive Connacht debuts in round 1, lock Quinn Roux, scrum half Ian Porter and wing Niyi Adeolokun all start.

Jack Carty has been handed the reins at outhalf for the opening fixture while Shane Layden, from Carrick-on-Shannon, has been named at full back. The 21-year-old Academy back made a substitute appearance against Leinster in October 2011 but has battled with injuries in recent years.  The former minor Roscommon footballer has trained with the senior squad all summer to earn his place in tomorrow’s starting line-up.

Up front, John Muldoon will captain from the blindside in a back row with fellow Galway man Eoin McKeon and New Zealander Jake Heenan, who makes a welcome return following surgery back in February.

From the bench, 21-year-old Academy graduate Conor Finn from Ballinasloe is also in line to earn his first competitive cap.

Commenting on team selection and the opening game, Head Coach Pat Lam said:

“Selecting the first team to go out was a really tough process. Despite some of the injuries we have, the competitiveness shown by the squad has made it difficult for the coaches but at the end of the day, that’s what we want from the players. The team that is lining out tomorrow is based on the hard work that has been done over the last nine weeks.

“It’s a very young side throughout but having the experience of leaders John Muldoon and Nathan White on the field will be invaluable.  

“We have some Connacht debutants with both Ian Porter and Quinn Roux slotting in after a good pre-season. It’s also very pleasing to see young Niyi Adeolokun earning his first ever professional cap. Since he’s come in, he’s ticked every single box. He’s impressed his team mates and coaches with his work ethic and the speed at which he’s adapted to the professional set-up. He deserves this start and it’s very exciting for both him and his family.

“After a long battle with injuries, Shane Layden is back fighting fit and starting at full back tomorrow. His determination and focus to get back to this position is a credit to him.

“Without scrumhalf John Cooney available to us just yet, the IRFU have been very flexible to us in allowing Ireland international Kieran Marmion to take a place on the bench in order to cover number 9.

“We have prepared well but we know Dragons will be no pushover. They have recruited well in the summer and are coming here on the back of a huge win last week against the Northampton Saints, the current Premiership champions who had their full squad out. That shows exactly where they are at and they’ll be tough opponents for a lot of teams this year including us tomorrow.

“But we are still confident of getting off to a winning start at the Sportsground. Having a good home record is vital to us so the key thing is to channel all our excitement, effort, fight and desire to win at home into the process of winning the game.”

Connacht line-up v Newport Gwent Dragons

15. Shane Layden

14. Niyi Adeolokun

13. Darragh Leader

12. Dave McSharry

11. Danie Poolman

10. Jack Carty

9. Ian Porter

 

1. Denis Buckley

2. Dave Heffernan

3. Nathan White

4. Mick Kearney

5. Quinn Roux

6. John Muldoon ©

7. Jake Heenan

8. Eoin McKeon

 

Replacements:

16. Sean Henry

17. Finlay Bealham

18. Rodney Ah You

19. George Naoupu

20. Willie Faloon

21. Kieran Marmion

22. Miah Nikora

23. Conor Finn

Unavailable / Injured: Jason Harris-Wright, Tom McCartney, Andrew Browne, Mata Fifita, Bundee Aki, Mils Muliaina, Tiernan O’Halloran, Shane O’Leary, Robbie Henshaw, Matt Healy, John Cooney

Tickets for Connacht v Dragons are selling fast with the Clan Stand already sold out. Remaining tickets are available on tickets.ie, in Centra & SuperValu stores province-wide and from the Connacht Rugby offices at the Sportsground.

Adult tickets start at €20 while it’s €5 for all Juniors (17 years and under).

Remember, for savings of over €100, get your 2014/15 Season Ticket.

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