Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam has named 22 players, including the nine fit and available backs, for Sunday’s European Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Stadium (kick off 3pm).  There are seven personnel and four positional changes from the starting side that defeated the premiership club seven days ago.

22-year-old outhalf Shane O’Leary will get his first start in a Connacht shirt this weekend while Caolin Blade is retained at scrum half.

Craig Ronaldson returns to the backline to join Peter Robb in another new mid field partnership while Rory Parata shifts out to the right wing. Last week’s try scorer Danie Poolman becomes the fifth player to wear the number 15 shirt this season, moving from his more regular position on the wing.

Up front, 19-year-old Academy prop Conan O’Donnell has been handed his first senior start, having made seven appearances from the bench this season. The Sligo man is joined in the front row by Rodney Ah You and hooker Jason Harris-Wright who makes his 50th Connacht appearance.

Danny Qualter will also start for the first time this season and is joined in the second row by Galway man Andrew Browne on his return from injury.

Eoghan Masterson is another welcome returnee and starts in a back row with Sean O’Brien and the experienced George Naoupu who will captain the side on Sunday.

Academy tighthead prop Saba Meunargia, who was added to the European Challenge Cup squad this week is named among the front row replacements.  The Georgian native and Athlone raised 21-year-old was brought on from the bench in Connacht’s Challenge Cup win away to Bayonne 12 months ago.

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

“This is another big game for us and one we’re looking forward to. We want to cement our position at the top of pool 1 before we switch back into a busy schedule in the PRO12.

“Personally, I’m really looking forward to going back to Kingston Park where I know it’s going to be tough, especially with the fantastic supporters who always lift the team and add to the atmosphere. There is no doubt that Newcastle will feel they should have got more from our game last week and they will present a real challenge for us on their 4G pitch.

“Initially we had 23 players named for this weekend with eight front rowers included but unfortunately we lost Ronan Loughney at training today when he pulled up with a minor back injury. So although we are down to just nine fit backs in our European squad, we have 22 players traveling who have brought a real intensity to training this week. They understand our team work and work ethic will give us the best chance to stay unbeaten in the competition.”

Connacht team to face Newcastle Falcons, Sunday December 20th, 3pm, Kingston Stadium

15           Danie Poolman
14           Rory Parata
13           Peter Robb
12           Craig Ronaldson
11           Niyi Adeolokun
10           Shane O’Leary
9              Caolin Blade

1              Conan O’Donnell
2              Jason Harris-Wright
3              Rodney Ah You
4              Danny Qualter
5              Andrew Browne
6              Sean O’Brien
7              Eoghan Masterson
8              George Naoupu (captain)


16           Shane Delahunt
17           Finlay Bealham
18           Saba Meunargia
19           Aly Muldowney
20           Dave Heffernan
21           Ian Porter
22           Jack Carty

Unavailable from European registered Squad (20):  Tom McCartney, Denis Buckley (deregistered), Ronan Loughney, Nathan White, Ben Marshall, Quinn Roux, Nepia Fox-Matamua (deregistered), John Muldoon, James Connolly, Eoin McKeon, John Cooney, Kieran Marmion, AJ MacGinty, Bundee Aki, Dave McSharry, Robbie Henshaw, Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran.

Newcastle Falcons v Connacht
Sunday December 20th
Kingston Park
Kick off 3pm

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Non televised



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