Connacht make four changes for visit of Zebre

Andy Friend: ‘They are a big physical side who are well able to throw the ball around’

Quinn Roux is one of four changes to the Connacht team. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Quinn Roux is one of four changes to the Connacht team. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Connacht have been boosted by the injury return of Sean O’Brien and Gavin Thornbury for the visit of Zebre to the Sportsground on Saturday afternoon (kick off 5.15pm).

Head coach Andy Friend has named centre Eoin Griffin and lock Quinn Roux - who came off the bench last week - as the other two changes to the side that lost by the narrowest of margins to Glasgow in last weekend’s Pro14 opener.

O’Brien comes into a backrow that includes captain Jarrad Butler at openside and academy player Paul Boyle who moves to number eight for his second start of the season. New signing Colby Fainga’a increases Connacht’s backrow options as he is named among the replacements for the visit of the Italians.

Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue their halfback partnership with returning Irish international Kieran Marmion also named on the bench.

In-form winger Cian Kelleher is named in a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at fullback.

Friend is aware of the threat that Zebre bring, the Italian club beat them twice last season; “We have picked a strong side again this week and I am satisfied that we are seeing some real competition in the squad. With the Eagles side playing Munster in the new Celtic Cup all of our available players will get game time this weekend”, Friend said.

“We are well aware of the challenge that Zebre pose. From what I have seen of them they are a big physical side who are well able to throw the ball around. We are expecting another big crowd in the Sportsground and a similar atmosphere to what we witnessed last weekend.”

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux; Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conán O’Donnell, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Kieran Marmion, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

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