Pat Lam wields the axe as Connacht battle for play-off spot

The landscape has changed a lot since Connacht last headed to Edinburgh.
Pat Lam wields the axe as Connacht battle for play-off spot

It will soon be a year since thousands of supporters made the journey from the west to cheer the province to that unforgettable 20-10 Guinness PRO12 final win over Leinster, the first trophy in their 131-year history.

The target is lower this evening for a first visit to Myreside (7.35pm, TG4) where victory will ensure Connacht finish no lower than eighth and, in the process, ensure their place with another PRO12 side — almost certainly Cardiff Blues — along with the French and English team which miss out on automatic qualification, for a crack at the remaining spot in next season’s Champions Cup.

Lam has wielded the axe following the dismal 25-22 loss in Parma, making seven changes for their trip to Scotland.

“It is never easy to go over to Edinburgh, they always have been a tough side,” said Lam. “You feel like you have put them away but they come back at you. Last year it looked like we had put them away but they came back at us as well. This time of the year, regardless if you are at the top end or the bottom end everyone has something to play for. They are still fighting for a play-off, but we know if we win this week that the play-off is secured.”

There are two changes up front where Kiwi tighthead prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy starts instead of international Finlay Bealham, who is on the bench.

The other change in the pack sees Eoin McKeon swap over to blindside flanker, and Jake Heenan return from injury to start on the opposite flank. There are five alterations in the backline with Irish stars Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran — making his 100th league appearance — returning after being rested for the trip to Italy.

Steve Crosbie comes into the side for his second start at out-half, with Bundee Aki starting at inside centre and Eoin Griffin returning to start in the No 13 jersey, while winger Niyi Adeolokun is also back from injury.

EDINBURGH:

G Bryce; D Hoyland, C Dean, P Burleigh, R Scholes; D Weir, N Fowles; M McCallum, R Ford, S Berghan; F McKenzie, B Toolis; V Mata, H Watson, C du Preez.

Replacements:

S McInally, D Appiah, K Bryce, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, S Hidalgo-Clyne, J Rasolea, T Brown.

CONNACHT:

T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, B Aki, D Poolman; S Crosbie, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, D Robertson-McCoy; Q Roux, A Browne; E McKeon, J Heenan, J Muldoon.

Replacements:

S Delahunt, JP Cooney, F Bealham, J Cannon, S O’Brien, C Blade, J Carty, J Rowland.

Referee:

Dan Jones (Wales).

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