Callow Connacht face a challenge in the experienced Dragons

At 26, Ian Porter is the old man of the home side’s backline

Connacht v Dragons
The Sportsground, 5.0pm
Pending the autumnal arrival of the experienced cavalry from the southern hemisphere, Connacht are liable to have a very callow, if interesting look to them; witness Pat Lam's opening selection of the season for what already appears like a hugely significant fixture given their ambitious target of a top six/seven finish.

In addition to on-loan signing Quinn Roux, whose Leinster career disappointingly never took off, ex-Ulster scrumhalf Ian Porter (the old man of the backs at 26) and 23-year-old Trinity flyer Niyi Adeolokun – whose pace has even amazed Mils Muliaina – make their competitive debuts. As eye-catching in the post-Dan Parks era is Lam's choice of Jack Carty at outhalf ahead of the more experienced Miah Nikora and Craig Ronaldson.

It will be a sixth league outing for the talented Carty, who turned 22 last week, while the 21-year-old Carrick-on-Shannon and Academy product Shane Layden will make his first league start at fullback. With Robbie Henshaw due back next week, Dave McSharry (24) is partnered by Darragh Leader (21) in midfield. Lam acknowledges that the experience of Nathan White, a potential dark horse for Ireland's World Cup squad, and John Muldoon will be "invaluable".

The Lions, Wales and ex-Clermont fullback Lee Byrne will captain the Dragons as one of five competitive debutants in their line-up alongside Boris Stankovich, Lloyd Fairbrother, Rynard Landman and Andy Powell. They look to have a more proven and experienced line-up, all the more so on the back of last week's win over Premiership champions Northampton.


“That shows exactly where they are at and they’ll be tough opponents for a lot of teams this year including us tomorrow,” admitted Lam. “But we are still confident of getting off to a winning start at the Sportsground. Having a good home record is vital to us so the key thing is to channel all our excitement, effort, fight and desire to win at home into the process of winning the game.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times