Pat Lam has named his side for Connacht’s round 4 Challenge Cup clash away to Bayonne on Saturday (kick off 8:45pm local time).

There are wholesale changes to the team that defeated the French side 42 – 19 at the Sportsground last week. 

Outhalf Miah Nikora has been handed the captaincy and is partnered by Academy scrumhalf Caolin Blade who makes his first senior start for the province.

22-year-old Conor Finn from Galway will also earn his first competitive start in a centre partnership with versatile back Craig Ronaldson.

Darragh Leader is installed at fullback in a back three with centurion Fionn Carr and Niyi Adeolokun on his return from injury.

Up front, Finlay Bealham starts for the first time in a reshuffled pack with Ronan Loughney, Dave Heffernan, Michael Swift and Willie Faloon also promoted from the bench. After featuring for the Connacht Eagles on Saturday following a six week absence, lock Aly Muldowney is back in action for Pat Lam at the weekend.

Academy forward James Connolly will make his Connacht debut at the Stade Jean Dauger on Saturday. The 21-year-old from Naas will feature in a back row with Faloon and Athlone man Danny Qualter at Number 8 for his own first start.

Named on the bench, Academy prop Saba Meunargia could also make his Connacht debut tomorrow night. The 20-year-old Georgian-born prop attended Marist College and has represented Ireland at Under-18 (Club and Schools) and U19’s level. Last season the Buccaneers club man was called into the Ireland U20’s squad.

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

“With an extremely busy period ahead and a number of guys injured or unavailable to us, there are a lot of players getting an opportunity to wear the Connacht jersey this weekend. It’s an exciting time for them and this week has been all about ensuring that they have clarity in their role and the game plan to execute our Connacht systems with confidence. I look forward to seeing how they perform in a pressurised environment.

“Tomorrow night presents a very different task to the one at the Sportsground last week. Like all French teams, Bayonne at home will be a totally different proposition. But a very good training week has given us the confidence and the belief that we have the game plan, and the players, to perform.”

Connacht team to face Bayonne

15. Darragh Leader
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Conor Finn
12. Craig Ronaldson
11. Fionn Carr
10. Miah Nikora (captain)
9. Caolin Blade

1. Ronan Loughney
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Michael Swift
5. Aly Muldowney
6. James Connolly
7. Willie Faloon
8. Danny Qualter

Replacements:

16. Shane Delahunt
17. Denis Buckley
18. Saba Meunargia
19. George Naoupu
20. Eoin McKeon
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Dave McSharry
23. Matt Healy

Unavailable/Injured: Jason Harris-Wright, Sean Henry, Nathan White, Rodney Ah You, JP Cooney, Mick Kearney, Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, Robbie Henshaw, Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman, Ian Porter, John Cooney, Shane Layden.

 

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