Elwood puts faith in young guns for ‘tough’ Ospreys clash

Connacht’s Eric Elwood is once again putting his faith in youngsters with Ireland U20 player Darragh Leader making his debut tomorrow against the Ospreys in Liberty Stadium (2.30pm).

The 19-years-old, who plays his club rugby with Galwegians, is named at fullback, having come off the bench last weekend for the Connacht Eagles.

Another youngster who has been grabbing the headlines, Robbie Henshaw, moves into the centre to join Mata Fifita in a new partnership with regulars David McSharry and Eoin Griffin injured.

Elwood has also made three changes up front with Brett Wilkinson joining captain Nathan White in the front row, with Jason Harris-Wright making his first start. Eoin McKeon starts at No 8 with regular George Naoupu moving to the second row to replace Ireland squad member Mike McCarthy. On the bench Danie Poolman is expected to make his first start since signing from the Stormers at the start of the season.

Elwood expects a tough and physical challenge from the RaboDirect Pro 12 champions, who have made just two changes after a 39-22 loss to Leicester in last weekend’s Heineken Cup.

“After a demanding nine weeks, we have injuries so we feel it is an opportunity to freshen up the side,” said Elwood.

“We have done some good work over the last two weeks in Europe, and although we are not getting carried away, we are taking the positives. We do not want to lose that intensity and the upward curve we are on, and it is the players themselves who are driving that.”

CONNACHT: D Leader, T O’Hallorn, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainikolo, D ParksW Fal, K Marmion, B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (cpt), M Swft, G Naoupu, J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeoin.

Replacements: A Flavin, R Loughney, R Ah You, D Gannon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, D Poolman.

OSPREYS: R Fussell, H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, E Walker, D Biggar, K Fotuali’i, R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jarvis, A Wyn-Jones (cpt), I Evans, J Bearman, J Tipuric, J Thomas.

Replacements: M Dwyer, D Jones, J Rees, J King, G Stowers, R Webb, M Morgan, T Isaacs.

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