Robin Copeland is set for his Connacht debut as Andy Friend’s side take on Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14 in the Sportsground on Saturday.
Copeland’s inclusion is one of six changes to the Connacht side that took on Edinburgh last weekend.
Irish International Bundee Aki is also included in the starting XV having come off the bench in Murrayfield for his first appearance of the season.
Aki forms a midfield partnership with Tom Farrell who returns after recovering from a stomach bug that ruled him out last weekend.
Cian Kelleher is named on the wing and is part of a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.
Prop Denis Buckley comes back at loosehead to make his third start of the season while Gavin Thornbury is named alongside Quinn Roux in the second row.
Copeland’s inclusion at number 8 sees him named in a back row that also features team captain Jarrad Butler at openside and blindside Sean O’Brien.
“We have been really impressed with Robin in the pre-season both on and off the field” explained Andy Friend ahead of Robin Copeland’s debut.
“His energy and maturity have been a big addition to the wider group. He played 40 minutes for the Eagles side last weekend and he came through that ok after a niggly injury, so he is good to go for Scarlets”.
With last season’s finalists Scarlets and Leinster visiting the Sportsground over the next two weekends, Friend is conscious of the challenge that his squad face.
“Scarlets are a quality side and we expect a huge challenge from them. They are one of the top teams in this competition, so it is a massive game for us.“
“We have a really healthy competition in our squad at the moment and that is exactly what we need as the big games keep coming” explained Friend.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.
Connacht v Scarlets
Saturday September 22