Leader role for Connacht as Elwood looks to take battle to Ospreys


Ospreys v Connacht:IT’S NOT a journey that many teams would feel confident about taking. It’s into the den of the PRO12 champions Ospreys at Liberty Stadium and for that Connacht have made a number of changes from last week, two of those positional.

Darragh Leader earns his first competitive start for the province at fullback.

The 19-year-old has only recently been signed to the Connacht Academy and impressed from the bench last week with the Connacht Eagles against Newcastle Falcons.

Leader has represented Ireland at under-19 level and is currently with the Ireland Under-20 squad. Baptism of fires springs to mind here for the young talent.

George Naoupu moves from his regular number eight position to lock for the injured Mike McCarthy, who is a big omission, and Eoin McKeon comes into the backrow.

Robbie Henshaw, also a relatively new face at fullback, replaces the injured Eoin Griffin in the centre.

Loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson comes in for Denis Buckley and is joined in the frontrow by tighthead Nathan White, who captains the side.

Hooker Jason Harris-Wright earns his first competitive start of the season.

“Last Saturday, we went toe-to-toe with the English champions and competed with them for the 80 minutes,” said coach Eric Elwood.

“We played some great rugby and we’ll be looking to do the same this weekend against the Ospreys.”

Ospreys have lost three of their six matches and are sixth on the table to Connacht’s 10th place with four defeats.

While the home side have a few casualties including Welsh prop Adam Jones, who is set to miss Wales’s autumn internationals. They will want to bounce back from Leicester last week, where the last 10 minutes cost them the match and they didn’t even come away with a losing bonus point.

Connacht, given some of their fresh faces, and Ospreys’ potential to be higher placed than where they are now, may struggle in Cardiff.

OSPREYS: R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, E Walker; D Biggar, K Fotuali’I; R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jarvis; AW Jones (capt), I Evans; J Bearman, J Tipuric, J Thomas. Replacements: M Dwyer, D Jones, J Rees, J King, G Stowers, R Webb, M Morgan, T Issacs.

CONNACHT: D Leader; T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainkolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); M Swift, G Naoupu; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeown. Replacements: from A Flavin, R Loughney, R Ah You, D Gannon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, D Poolman.

Referee: G Clancy(IRFU).

Verdict: Home win.

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