Pat Lam fields inexperienced Connacht side for Newcastle clash
Lam currently without 18 players ahead of Challenge Cup fixture at the Sportsground
James Connolly starts for Connacht against Newcastle Falcons on Friday night after signing a senior contract with the province on Wednesday. Photograph: Inpho
Ulster’s injury problems have been well reported but Connacht have major issues of their own, with 18 players unavailable for Friday night’s Challenge Cup fixture against Newcastle Falcons.
Pat Lam makes 10 changes to his side for the game at the Sportsground and fields what is a relatively inexperienced starting XV.
Among those handed starts are 21-year-old scrumhalf Caolin Blade, while academy duo Peter Robb and Rory Parata - who signed a senior contract for next season on Wednesday - start in midfield.
22-year-old James Connolly also signed a senior contract on Wednesday and he makes his Sportsground debut in the backrow with George Naoupu and Sean O’Brien, who makes his first senior start for the province.
Tiernan O’Halloran will captain the side form fullback, while prop Nathan White also starts in a very youthful looking line-up.
Ahead of the game, Lam said: “With 18 players unavailable through injury from our European squad, it was certainly a challenge to piece together a match day squad for tomorrow.
“We are forced to name the 23 remaining players which include three hookers in the team as Dave (Heffernan) will be required to cover the backrow. Thankfully Danie (Poolman) and Ian (Porter) passed late fitness tests this morning to take their place on the bench. While it isn’t ideal, it’s simply another test for us to meet head on.”
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, Finlay Bealham, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, Sean O’Brien, James Connolly, George Naoupu
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Rodney Ah You, Danny Qualter, Dave Heffernan, Ian Porter, Shane O’Leary, Danie Poolman
Newcastle Falcons: Simon Hammersley; Dan Marshall, Tom Penny, Chris Harris, Zach Kibirige; Craig Willis, Tane Takulua; Alex Rogers, Scott Lawson, Taione Vea, Will Witty, Mouritz Botha, Richard Mayhew, Dan Temm, Allister Hogg
Replacements: Rob Vickers, Ben Harris, Andy Foster, Calum Green, Callum Chick, Ruaridh Dawson, Juan Socino, Marcus Watson