Formidable Exeter look too strong for much-changed Connacht

Chiefs back to full strength for Sandy Park clash

Nathan White caps what is a memorable week with his call-up to an extended Ireland squad for the November Test series by leading Connacht against the Exeter Chiefs in the absence of flanker John Muldoon, who is rested following a heavy playing schedule to date this season.

The cherry on top, so to speak, would be a victory today.

Denis Buckley, Michael Swift, Mick Kearney and Andrew Browne are promoted to the starting team as are right wing Niyi Adeolokun, centre Dave McSharry and scrumhalf Ian Porter.

Craig Ronaldson shifts from centre to outhalf. Academy prospects Danny Qualter and Caolin Blade are included in the replacements after impressing with the Eagles.

Second string

Connacht thumped a lightweight La Rochelle side in the Sportsground last week as the French elected to travel with a largely second-string team. That certainly won’t be the case today when Connacht run out at Sandy Park.

The Exeter Chiefs picked up a bonus point in defeat last week away to Bayonne when fielding a depleted side but their front-line players return, included former Ireland underage international Gareth Steenson at outhalf.

Fellow Ulsterman Ian Whitten is included among the replacements as is former Connacht player, Tongan wing Fetu’u Vainikolo.

Connacht coach Pat Lam said: “Once again we have a very tough test in front of us and on the road. Exeter are flying high in the Premiership and we expect them to name a very strong side at home.

“It’s going to be a great match because you have two teams that I believe are quite similar in the way they work extremely hard for each other and rely on team work.”

“It’s good to be able to bring the experience and size of Michael (Swift), Mick (Kearney) and Andrew (Browne) into what is going to be another physical challenge.”

As far as the outcome is concerned and based on team selection, the Chiefs deserve the mantle of favourites and are likely to reinforce it over the 80 minutes.