Teenager to make first competitive start for Connacht

Darragh Leader, 19, will earn his first competitive start for Connacht in tomorrow afternoon’s meeting with defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium (2.30pm).

Teenager to make first competitive start for Connacht

Darragh Leader, 19, will earn his first competitive start for Connacht in tomorrow afternoon’s meeting with defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium (2.30pm).

Leader, who has only recently been signed to the Connacht Academy, impressed as he came off the bench last week with the Connacht Eagles.

The young Leader, who has represented Ireland at U19 level and is currently with the Ireland U20 squad, will start at fullback in Wales and is one of seven changes Eric Elwood has made to his starting XV.

Two of those changes are positional with George Naoupu moving from his regular number 8 position to lock in place of an injured Mike McCarthy and Robbie Henshaw replacing the injured Eoin Griffin in the centre.

Mata Fifita replaces Dave McSharry and joins Henshaw in the new centre partnership.

Up front, loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson replaces Denis Buckley. Wilkinson is joined in the front row by tighthead Nathan White, who captains the side, and Jason Harris-Wright who earns his first competitive start of the season.

The 24-year-old hooker has made an impression from the bench in RaboDirect PRO12 clashes with Ulster and his former club Leinster.

With Naoupu moving forward, Eoin McKeon now wears the number 8 jersey.

On the bench, former Stormers player Danie Poolman is set to make his first appearance for the province. Rodney Ah You and Dave Gannon also return to the bench as replacement forwards.

The Ospreys have won their last three PRO12 matches and Head Coach Eric Elwood is aware of the challenge Steve Tandy’s side pose.

“Over the years, we’ve had huge physical encounters with the Welsh side and we’ll be expecting the same this weekend,” Elwood said.

“It’s another big challenge but we take great encouragement from our performances of the last few weeks.

“Last Saturday, we went toe-to-toe with the English champions and competed with them for the 80 minutes. We played some great rugby and we’ll be looking to do the same this weekend against the Ospreys.

“We know it’s going to be a hugely physical battle but we’re very much looking forward to the test. The goal for us is to keep improving and continue on our upward curve”

Connacht (v. Ospreys): D leader; T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White ©; M Swift, G Naoupu; G Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon.

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

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