Sligo youngster Cillian Gallagher has been drafted straight into the matchday squad for Connacht’s European Challenge Cup game against Worcester in the Sportsground in Galway tomorrow (3pm).
The former Summerhill College and Sligo RFC player was added to Connacht register for the European games as a replacement for the injured Andrew Browne mid-week, and has been named on the bench for tomorrow’s tie.
Gallagher captained the Irish U20 team during this year’s Six Nations Championship.
Eoghan Masterson is set to captain the team. The 24-year-old takes his place at number 8 in a back row that includes Eoin McKeon at blindside and James Connolly at openside.
There is also a new-look front row from the team that started the round one bonus point win away to Oyonnax. Denis Buckley comes in at loosehead and Dave Heffernan and Dominic Robertson-McCoy are included at hooker and tighthead respectively. In the backs, Bundee Aki returns to the centre alongside Eoin Griffin in the centre. Tiernan O’Halloran is also back in the side at full back after a brief injury.
Connacht’s record try scorer in European competition Matt Healy, who scored two tries in the opening round, is included in the starting XV.
He spoke about the challenge that Connacht face tomorrow: “We had a great travelling support last week in Geneva and we were delighted with the bonus point win. So, we had a review of the Oyonnax game and very quickly moved on and started focusing on Worcester. We are delighted to be back in the Sportsground in front of our home support. Worcester will bring a big challenge, they had a good win last week and, like ourselves, will be looking to gain a bit of momentum this weekend.”
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Bundee Aki, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (Capt)
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Cillian Gallagher, Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion, Craig Ronaldson, Cian Kelleher.
Meanwhile, head coach Mossy Lawler has named the Connacht Eagles side for Sunday’s British and Irish Cup clash against high-flying Ealing Trailfinders at the Sportsground (2pm).
Andrew Deegan, Rory Scholes and captain JP Cooney are among the players drafted into the side.
Once again, the strong selection includes a mix of senior and Connacht Academy players as Ireland international Niyi Adeolokun and Fiji international Naulia Dawai both maintain their places.
Out-half Deegan partners Conor McKeon at half-back with Scholes starting on the left wing as Stacey Ili maintains his place at outside centre.
The Connacht Academy, sponsored by NUIG, is well represented with Matthew Byrne at full back, Kieran Joyce at inside centre, Peter Claffey in the second row, and both Paul Boyle and Harley Fox in the back row.
An all-senior front row sees Denis Coulson and Cooney flank Pat O’Toole with lock Gavin Thornbury partnering Claffey in the engine room.
Scrum-half James Mitchell is set to make his return from injury off the bench with three Academy players among the replacements – out-half Luke Carty, back three player Adam Leavy and prop Conor Kenny.
Ireland U18 internationals Cian Huxford and Callum Torpey (Exile) complete the bench along with Niall Murray, last year’s Connacht U18 Player of the Year.
It is set to be a very tough task against an Ealing Trailfinders side that are flying high in the Championship with five wins from six.
They made a superb start to the B&I Cup campaign thanks to a 67-12 win over Richmond last week and former Connacht out-half Shane O’Leary is among their ranks.
Admission to this game for Season Ticket holders and under-12s is free of charge.
General admission is €5.
Connacht Eagles: Matthew Byrne; Niyi Adeolokun, Stacey Ili, Kieran Joyce, Rory Scholes; Andrew Deegan, Conor McKeon; Denis Coulson, Pat O’Toole, JP Cooney (Capt); Peter Claffey, Gavin Thornbury; Paul Boyle, Naulia Dawai, Harley Fox.
Replacements: Callum Torpey, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Cian Huxford, James Mitchell, Luke Carty, Adam Leavy.