Pat Lam has named a young side for his side’s pre-season clash with Castres Olympique tomorrow evening in France. The game, which is part of the Challenge Vaquerin, kicks off at 8pm (7pm Irish time) at Saint-Affrique.

As the management team continue to blend the new summer signings and academy players into the squad, the line-ups show a combination of youth and experience and will come up against a top French side just eight days out from the start of their Top 14 campaign.

Uncapped academy centre Rory Parata will start in the backline on the same day he celebrates his 21st birthday in France. The Galwegians club man will link up with Bundee Aki in midfield while Shane O’Leary and Emerging Ireland player John Cooney make up the half back pairing. Tiernan O’Halloran also returns to the fray after his summer tour to Georgia and starts in a back three with Darragh Leader and Danie Poolman.

Up front, new signing Nepia Fox-Matamua will have his first outing in a Connacht shirt and is named in a back row with Eoin McKeon and 22-year-old Eoghan Masterson who will captain the side in France. The Portlaoise man, who has graduated from the Connacht Academy, was one of nine Connacht players to return from a successful Emerging Ireland tour in Georgia.

Connacht 15 – 9: Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman, Shane O’Leary, John Cooney

1 – 8: Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Rodney Ah You, Ben Marshall, Danny Qualter, Eoin McKeon, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson (captain)

Replacements: Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Shane Delahunt, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux*, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon, James Connolly
Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Api Pewharangi, Jack Carty, Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion

*Quinn Roux was a late addition to the traveling squad. Dave McSharry was withdrawn late due to a shoulder injury picked up in training on Tuesday. A further medical update will be provided next week.

Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said:

“Castres are just a week out from the start of their Top 14 campaign so we excited to have a tough encounter away from home. This is a great opportunity for us to take the learnings from last week and improve.

“As a coaching team, we are encouraging strong competition throughout the squad and this a perfect chance for all players to stand up to the challenge, and push for a starting place in the team.“

Castres Olympique v Connacht Rugby
Saint-Affrique
Friday August 14th
kick off 8pm local time (7pm Irish time)

Follow us @ConnachtRugby on Twitter for score updates from Castres v Connacht.

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