Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons, Sportsground (Friday 7.30)
Summer signing Nepia Fox-Matamua will earn his first cap for Connacht while 21-year-old academy centre Rory Parata will make his Guinness Pro12 debut as coach Pat Lam looks to get the season off to a winning start against the Dragons.
Friday night’s protagonists are not overly encumbered by personnel commitments to the World Cup so they will be looking to maximise their points’ return during that period. Lam admitted: “I’m delighted for young Rory Parata who has had a good off-season and impressed in the warm-up games. It just highlights that if you put the work in your chance will come.
“It’s always a tight and physical battle with the Dragons and we’re expecting nothing different with both sides looking to get off to a flying start.”
Newport Gwent Dragons, director of rugby Lyn Jones has given five players their debut start, including South African scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius. Fullback Carl Meyer is one of the players who signed a full time contract with the Dragons during the summer. The team also includes former Leinster Tigers loosehead prop Borris Stankovitch.
The Dragons can be sticky opponents in their own lair but Connacht will be confident of claiming the match points on offer.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Poolman, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; Q Roux, A Browne; J Muldoon (capt), N Fox-Matamua, E Masterson. Replacements: D Heffernan, JP Cooney, F Bealham, B Marshall, E McKeon, J Cooney, C Ronaldson, F Carr.
Dragons: C Meyer; T Prydie, R Wardle, A Warren, N Scott; J Tovey, S Pretorius; B Stankovich, T Rhys Thomas (capt), S Knight; C Hill, R Landman; N Crosswell, N Cudd, E Jackson. Replacements: H Gustafson, P Price, B Harris, J Thomas, J Benjamin, C Davies, D Jones, T Morgan.