Two defeats from three leaves Kieran Keane’s side on the back foot in Conference A, but a win tonight can see them keep pace with runaway leaders Munster and Glasgow, who played last night.
Forwards coach Jimmy Duffy says he is expecting another closely fought encounter against a ‘high quality’ Blues side, who haven’t won in Galway in their last three visits. With Deegan parachuted straight into the team just two weeks since his arrival, Jack Carty doesn’t even make the match day squad, one of nine changes to the side that lost to Dragons last time out.
Centre Craig Ronaldson and Ireland hooker Dave Heffernan make their first starts of the season as Duffy prepares for another tough clash with Welsh opposition after Connacht did the double over Cardiff last season.
Duffy said: “It is always a very very close contest. Glasgow are going very well at the moment and they lost to them by a point. They are quality opposition with a lot of quality players. Well coached and we know they are going to be difficult. They will pose a lot of questions to you in terms of their attack and in defence, they change the picture a lot.”
Connacht were poor in their 21-8 defeat to Dragons last weekend and Keane has acted quickly with four changes in personnel in the back-line. Darragh Leader reverts to full-back with Cian Kelleher in the right wing. Bundee Aki moves to outside centre with Ronaldson wearing No 12. There is a new half-back partnership, former Waratah Deegan (22) will begin at out-half with Ireland international Kieran Marmion at scrum-half. There are five further changes up front – the front row has changed entirely with Denis Buckley, Heffernan and Finlay Bealham getting their chance. Ultan Dillane comes in in the second row while Jarrad Butler returns at openside flanker.
D Leader; C Kelleher, B Aki, C Ronaldson, R Scholes; A Deegan, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; U Dillane, Q Roux; E Masterson, J Butler, J Muldoon.
S Delahunt, D Coulson, C Carey, G Thornbury, E McKeon, C Blade, T Farrell, S Ili.
R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; B Thyer, K Dacey, T Filise; S Davies, D Welch; J Turnbull, J Navidi, N Williams.
E Lewis, C Domachowski, K Assiratti, G Earle, O Robinson, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.
Marius Mitrea (Italy).