Prop Paddy McAllister is set to make his first competitive start in a Connacht jersey as his side travel to the Scarlets for the opening round of the Guinness Pro14 on Saturday (k/o 5:15pm).
McAllister, who signed from Gloucester in the summer, made his debut in Connacht’s pre-season friendly win over against Munster at The Sportsground last Saturday.
He joins an experienced front row that includes tighthead Finlay Bealham
and hooker Tom McCartney
. Behind them will be Gavin Thornbury
and Quinn Roux
, both of whom impressed in Connacht’s three pre-season wins.
Captain Jarrad Butler
will wear the now familiar number 8 jersey in a back row alongside Eoghan Masterson
and Colby Fainga’a
at blindside and openside respectively.
With Jack Carty away on international duty at the Rugby World Cup, Conor Fitzgerald
is named at out-half alongside scrum-half Caolin Blade
. Elsewhere in the back line, Tom Daly
and Kyle Godwin
will form the centre partnership with wingers Matt Healy
and Stephen Fitzgerald
and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran
completing the side.
Ahead of the opening game of the season, Head Coach Andy Friend commented on the depth that will be required in the Connacht squad as they prepare for a season of PRO14 and Champions Cup action: “We used fifty players last season and we expect to use a similar number this time around. We have come through a really good pre-season where we have won three games from three and more importantly we have got to do a lot of work on the training field. I think we are definitely further along as a squad compared to where we were this time last season”.
Commenting on the challenge of the Scarlets, Friend added: “We are expecting a hugely competitive game. While they are missing players away on World Cup duty, they also have real depth in their squad. Both sides will be targeting a win, so I think we are in for quality game”. Connacht Matchday Squad:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Peter Robb, Darragh Leader.