Hooker McCartney takes his place in the front row alongside Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the back-row Jake Heenan and Eoin McKeon come into the side, for their second and first starts of the season respectively.
The side is also boosted by the return of Tiernan O’Halloran from injury and he takes his place on the wing with Darragh Leader being retained at full-back. After coming off the bench against Cardiff last week, Tom Farrell forms the centre pairing with Bundee Aki. Caolin Blade gets his second start of the season as he forms a half back partnership with Jack Carty.
Connacht face a huge challenge against last year’s PRO12 champions, a fact that Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane was fully aware of when he spoke to journalists ahead of the game: “They are very expansive, very well skilled and a well drilled team. We are going over to beat them obviously. We have put in place a plan that we think could trouble them, but they are a quality side and you don’t become champions for nothing.
“Decision-making has really been a focal point for us. We have hard workers, we have good players, and we have structures they are coming to grips with that will create opportunities, which we haven’t been able to exploit yet. So, putting a little bit of polish on the rough diamond is what we are looking to achieve.”
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Capt), Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Jake Heenan, Jarrad Butler, Eoin McKeon
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.