Connacht have named seven changes ahead of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.
David Hawkshaw will be handed his first Connacht start at flyhalf to form a new-look halfback pairing with Kieran Marmion. In the only other change in the backs, Tom Daly returns to inside centre. He partners Tom Farrell, with an unchanged back three of wings Mack Hansen and John Porch and fullback Oran McNulty.
In the pack, Dave Heffernan returns to complete a very experienced front row with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.
There’s a new second-row pairing of Leva Fifita and Oisín Dowling, meaning Josh Murphy moves to blindside flank. The rest of the back row consists of openside flank Conor Oliver and No 8 Jarrad Butler.
The management have opted for a six-two split on the bench and includes hooker Grant Stewart and Academy graduate Ciarán Booth, who will both make their debuts for the province if called upon.
“Whilst our first two performances have been disappointing and below our own expectations, the mood within the team remains positive,” said Connacht director of rugby Andy Friend. “Everyone has been working really hard to iron out some of the issues that have hindered us in the opening rounds.”
“All five players who joined us post the Stormers match have proven to be great additions for us, especially our team captain Jack Carty.”
“It’s been fantastic to have him back training with us for the first time this season, and he’s on target for selection in the not too distant future.”
Connacht – 15 Oran McNulty, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 David Hawkshaw, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (c), 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Byron Ralston, 23 Ciarán Booth.
Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images