Connacht coach Pat Lam has described tonight’s Guinness Pro12 opponents, Glasgow Warriors, as “the Toulon of our competition”.
Lam’s side face a massive challenge away to the champions who slumped to a shock defeat in their opening game against Scarlets last weekend — their first defeat in 20 games in Scotland.
And Lam knows the home outfit will be desperate to make amends tonight (Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm, TG4).
“We have yet to win at Scotstoun and we’re playing the champions, who will be fired up after last week’s defeat. Glasgow are pretty much the Toulon of our competition. And there is no doubt they will be hurting.” Lam has made one change to his side that opened their Pro12 campaign with a 29-23 win over the Dragons — scrum-half John Cooney taking over from Kieran Marmion who is named on the bench.
Lam sees this as strong test for his maturing group of young players. “Our focus for the growth of our young squad is to compete and perform in challenges like this. We want to be a team that can handle big games. It’s a game in which we have to get our jobs right.”
Captain John Muldoon reaches another milestone in Glasgow, lining out for his 250th game for the province, while Lam has retained last week’s debutantes, centre Rory Parata and try-scorer Nepia Fox-Matamua.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend has made six changes to his starting line-up, handing experienced international scrum-half Mike Blair and out-half Rory Clegg starts, with Junior Bulumakau on the right wing.
In the pack, coached by former Connacht assistant Dan McFarland, there are three changes.
Townsend hopes his side have learned their lessons from their opening Guinness Pro12 defeat, when the champions began their title defence with a disappointing 16-10 defeat to Scarlets last weekend.
“We were disappointed to lose our opening game against the Scarlets, but the effort in the second-half last week was really encouraging and much more of what we expect from our players.
“For those selected to play Connacht, it’s an opportunity to put what we’ve learned last week and what we’ve been working on in training this week into a much-improved performance.
“Connacht are a very good side who have a strong set-piece and come into this game off the back of a win against the Dragons last weekend. Our two opening fixtures were always going to be tough and we know we’ll have to perform very well to win tonight.”
T O’Halloran, D Poolman, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, J Cooney, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Browne, J Muldoon (cpt), N Fox-Matamua, E Masterson.
Replacements, D Heffernan, JP Cooney, F Bealham, Y Dillane, B Marshall, K Marmion, C Ronaldson, F Carr.
G Bryce, J Bulumakau, P Murchie (cpt), F Lyle, L Jones, R Clegg, M Blair, A Allan, P MacArthur, M Cusack, S Cummings, K Low, R Harley, C Fusaro, A Ashe.
Replacements, K Bryce, J Yanuyanutawa, Z Fagerson, J Eddie, T Holmes, H Blake, G Hart, S Wight.
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