All-Black Muliana starts for Connacht

Mils Muliaina, who has 100 New Zealand caps, will make his Connacht debut in the Showgrounds tomorrow night, in the province’s PRO12 clash with Zebre.

All-Black Muliana starts for Connacht

Mils Muliaina, who has 100 New Zealand caps, will make his Connacht debut in the Showgrounds tomorrow night, in the province’s PRO12 clash with Zebre.

Another New Zealand native, outhalf Miah Nikora, is also making his debut - and centre Bundee Aki plays in front of a home crowd for the first time.

Head Coach Pat Lam said there was excitement levels were high ahead of Muliana’s first appearance.

"We know there is a lot of anticipation around Mils' debut. This is Connacht's first All Black about to play at the Sportsground so it's obviously very exciting for us and our supporters,” Lam said.

“While the expectation is high, we have to keep in mind that this will be his first game of rugby since March after returning from a long term injury. But Mils is a true professional and has shown his experience during rehab, training and off the field. He is gunning to get out there to perform for the team.”

He continued: "It's fantastic to have our three new signings Mils, Bundee and Tom (McCartney) available for this game as we had planned. They have all settled in very well, getting to know their team-mates and the new systems and structures. All three are really looking forward to getting out on the field tomorrow night in front of our home fans for the first time.”

Elsewhere in the starting 15 there are two changes to the pack. Ronan Loughney switches to tight head prop while Flanker Willie Faloon is named in a back row alongside captain John Muldoon and Player of the Month George Naoupu.

Connacht team in full: 15. Mils Muliaina, 14. Danie Poolman, 13. Bundee Aki, 12. Dave McSharry , 11. Matt Healy, 10. Miah Nikora, 9. Ian Porter; 1. Denis Buckley, 2. Jason Harris-Wright, 3. Ronan Loughney, 4. Mick Kearney, 5. Quinn Roux, 6. John Muldoon (captain), 7. Willie Faloon, 8. George Naoupu.

Replacements: 16. Dave Heffernan, 17. Tom McCartney, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Andrew Browne, 20. Eoin McKeon, 21. John Cooney, 22. Jack Carty, 23. Darragh Leader.

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