You would have thought Connacht’s bid to get their first points of the season would be the primary focus of this encounter, but the surprise midweek departure of Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has changed the dynamic of this clash.
Former Scottish international Duncan Hodges has taken charge on a temporary basis of an Edinburgh side who, like Connacht, have been beaten three times this season but who at least have a win over Scarlets to their credit.
And, having sent a makeshift front row to Thomond Park last weekend with inevitable results, they are coming fully loaded to the Sportsground with their key figure, tighthead WP Nel, one of four internationals returning.
Connacht, in a week where the retirement of international tighthead Nathan White was confirmed due to concussion and with continued fears that lock Ben Marshall might also be in similar difficulty, have a debutant in the front row as former Irish U20 Conor Carey starts at tighthead, with international Finlay Bealham on the bench. That is one of two changes as centre Peter Robb teams up with Bundee Aki as Connacht hope to avoid becoming the first PRO12 champions to lose four on the spin at the start of the title defence.
Pat Lam is refusing to panic at this early stage. “Everyone is after a win, but as I have said many times — we don’t focus on the win. That’s what we all want but our focus in on our performance.
“We’re back at the Sportsground and really looking forward to the challenge. We are determined to continue improving in our game as we look to earn the points that are available.”
T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, B Aki, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, C Carey; Q Roux, U Dillane; E McKeon, J Heenan, J Muldoon.
D Heffernan, R Loughney, F Bealham, L Stevenson, J Connolly, C Blade, S O’Leary, C Kelleher.
G Bryce; D Hoyland, C Dean, S Rasolea, M Allen; J Tovey, S Kennedy; R Sutherland, R Ford, WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; M Bradbury, J Hardie, C du Preez.
S McInally, J Cosgrave, A Dell, L Carmichael, H Watson, S Hidalgo-Clyne, S Tofilau, B Kinghorn.
Nigel Owens (WRU).
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