Pat Lam picks young Connacht side for Newcastle test

Coach’s selection is compromised by injuries to 18 players

Peter Robb: will take his place in a young Connactht backline against Newcastle at the Sportsground. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Peter Robb: will take his place in a young Connactht backline against Newcastle at the Sportsground. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Connacht coach Pat Lam will put his trust in youth as his callow side look to maintain an unbeaten start to the European Challenge Cup. He’s selection is compromised by injuries to 18 players and there are a couple on the bench, scrumhalf Ian Porter and centre cum wing Danie Poolman who passed late fitness tests. 

There are three 21-year-olds in the backline, centres Rory Parata and Peter Robb and scrumhalf Caolin Blade; wing Matt Healy, at 26, is the elder lemon, so to speak.

Only two of the pack that lost to the Cardiff Blues last weekend Aly Muldowney and James Connolly are retained.

Physical battle

George NaoupuJason Harris Wright

Lam admitted: “With 18 players unavailable through injury from our European squad, it was certainly a challenge to piece together a match-day squad . . . 

“Newcastle will bring their own strengths and we are expecting a very physical battle. Despite all the changes, if we work together as a team and stick to our structures we’ll increase our chances of getting the job done. 

“We’re really looking forward to playing back at the Sportsground.”  

Former Ireland underage hooker George McGuigan is an absentee for a Newcastle team that have managed one draw in six games domestically. Dean Richards’ side will be robust and direct up front, led by a couple of canny Scots, in hooker Scott Lawson and Ally Hogg. Connacht have lost their last five matches against English opposition in Europe, dating back some six years. 

Newcastle might just have a little bit too much power in the forward tussle despite the excellent performances of players like Muldowney and Connolly of late. There’s plenty of pace and footballing ability behind the Connacht scrum. They just might not get enough.    

CONNACHT: T O’Halloran (capt); N Adeolokun, R Parata, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; F Bealham, J Harris Wright, N White; U Dillane, A Muldowney; S O’Brien, J Connolly, G Naoupu. Replacements: S Delahunt, C O’Donnell, R Ah You, D Qualter, D Heffernan, I Porter, S O’Leary, D Poolman. 

NEWCASTLE: S Hammersley; D Marshall, T Penny, C Harris, Z Kibirige; C Willis, T Takulua; A Rogers, S Lawson, T Vea; W Witty, M Botha; R Mayhew (capt), D Temm, A Hogg. Replacements: R Vickers, B Harris, A Foster, C Green, C Chick, R Dawson, J Socino, M Watson. 

Referee: T Charabas (France).

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