Six Connacht changes and a new backrow for Scarlets’ clash

Connacht have been forced to make a host of changes, including a new backrow, for today’s visit of the Scarlets to the Galway Sportsground.

In three of six changes, Andrew Browne, making his first start in a year, and Eoin McKeon, replace the injured John Muldoon and George Naoupu, while Willie Faloon comes in for openside Johnny O’Connor. Coach Eric Elwood has made two front-row changes with prop Brett Wilkinson making his first seasonal start alongside new recruit Nathan White who came on last week in Connacht’s victory over Zebre, while Dave McSharry returns from injury to replace Mata Fifita.

Having grabbed that valuable away victory last weekend, Connacht Rugby are intent on using home advantage to take the scalp of high-flying Welsh outfit Scarlets. However, Elwood says Connacht will need to step it up against a side that is top of the table with 10 tries already bagged in just two games.

“The Scarlets arrive here as league leaders and are back to their traditional best, playing a fast tempo game. Having already scored 10 tries in just two games, our defence will have to be on top and we know we have our work cut out for ourselves.”

Elwood says Connacht will need to step it up another notch after last weekend’s 30-17 win over newcomers Zebre.

“It took a massive effort last weekend — the travel, the heat, and playing against an Italian side with some 400 caps in their first home match. The lads showed huge character, particularly when we were forced into making so many changes in the second-half. Now they will have to step it up again against the Scarlets who are riding high after their first two games.

Simon Easterby brings his Scarlets side looking for a third successive victory and has made a number of changes with Jordan Williams making his first senior debut; Newcastle Emlyn’s scrum half Gareth Davies at nine, Nick Reynolds on the wing, Samson Lee starts at tight-head in his first competitive start and Phil John at loose-head prop, Sione Timani joins Richard Kelly in the second row, while Kieran Murphy starts at number eight with Scarlets skipper Rob McCusker on the bench.

CONNACHT: G Duffy (cpt); TO’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; M Nikora, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, N White; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, W Faloon, E McKeon.

Replacements: A Flavin, D Buckley, R Ah You, D Gannon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Jarvis, R Henshaw.

SCARLETS: J Williams G North, J Davies, S Williams, N Reynolds, R Priestland, G Davies, P Jhn, M Rees, S Lee, S Timani, R Kelly, J Turnbull, J Edwards, K Murphy.

Replacements: K Owens, P Edward, D Manu, J Ball, R McCusker, A Davies, A Thomas, G Maule.

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