Connacht boss Eric Elwood will welcome the return of veteran Michael Swift in one of five changes to his starting side, necessitated by injuries to Johnny O’Connor, Ronan Loughney, Eoin Griffin and Brian Tuohy.
Swift joins Mike McCarthy in the second-row, with George Naoupu returning to his favoured No 8 berth. John Muldoon moves to the openside with Ray Ofisa on the bench. Injuries to Loughney and Rodney Ah You see Dylan Rogers come into the front row, while Fetu Vainikolo replaces Tuohy on the wing, David McSharry returns from injury to join Tonnetti in the centre, and Frank Murphy replaces Paul O’Donoghue. Matthew Jarvis is retained at outhalf with Niall O’Connor on the bench.
Swift’s return will be hugely welcomed by Connacht who are up against a physical pack that boasts a strong set piece.
“They see this as their big game of the season, we are the same, ” says Elwood.
Connacht lost 25-13 in Italy on their first visit to Stadio Zaffanella last season, and Elwood wants revenge. “We probably tried to play too much rugby last time we were there so we need to be more tactically astute in how we approach and play the game. We need to play smart rugby and then winning rugby in the right areas.”
Aironi are seeking their third win of the season, having already enjoyed wins over Edinburgh and Treviso.
CONNACHT: G Duffy (cpt), F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, D McSharry, T O’Halloran, M Jarvis, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, A Flavin, D Rogers, M Swift, M McCarthy, M Kearney, J Muldoon, G Naoupu.
Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, S Maguire, E McKeon, R Ofisa, P O’Donohoe, N O’Connor, H Fa’afili.
AIRONI: A Masi, G Toniolatti, R Quartaroli, G Pizarro, S Sinoti; L Orquera, T Keats; A De Marchi, R Santamaria, F Staibano, J Furno, M Bortolami (cpt), N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole.
Replacements: T D’Apice, S Perugini, L Romano, Q Geldenhuys, M Bergamasco, T Tebaldi, N Olivier, A Benettin.