There may be little for Connacht to play for this evening in terms of match points, but it will be an emotional occasion in what could be the final home match for Pat Lam and the other members of management and players who are leaving the province.
They will wrap up their disappointing defence of the PRO12 crown away to Munster next week but with an eye firmly on the Champions Cup play-off — more than likely a trip to England — Lam has shuffled his side for this clash, making ten changes.
There are four changes up front where Dominic Robertson-McCoy comes in at tighthead, James Cannon returns in the second, while Sean O’Brien and Eoghan Masterson start in the back row. In the back-line, Darragh Leader starts his first game in 18 months.
He is on the right wing and Cian Kelleher also returns from injury on the other wing. Given Bundee Aki’s three-match suspension, there is a new centre partnership with Eoin Griffin and Tom Farrell linking up, while Springbok Marnitz Boshoff makes his long-awaited return at out-half and Caolin Blade starts at scrum-half, with Lam keen to experiment before the play-offs.
“With Champions Cup being our main focus, the next two games present a great opportunity to prepare for the qualification play-offs in May,” he said.
T O’Halloran; D Leader, T Farrell, E Griffin, C Kelleher; M Boshoff, C Blade; F Bealham, D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy; J Cannon, A Browne; S O’Brien, J Heenan, E Masterson.
S Delahunt, D Buckley, JP Cooney, Q Roux, J Muldoon, J Cooney, C Ronaldson, D Poolman.
J Mcnicholl; L Williams, J Davies, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, J Evans; R Evans, K Owens, S Lee; J Ball, T Beirne; A Shingler, W Boyde, J Barclay. Replacements: R Elias, W Jones, W Kruger, D Bulbring, J Macleod, G Davies, S Williams, DTH van der Merwe.