Mick Kearney will make his first competitive start for Connacht when facing Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the Sportground on New Year’s Day.

Kearney comes in for Dave Gannon at blindside flanker. Gannon came off with a knee injury against Munster last Monday and has failed to recover.

The debutant, an Ireland U18, U20 and colleges player, earned his first cap for Connacht against the Ospreys this season and has appeared five times since then.

The other change in the pack sees Adrian Flavin replace Ethienne Reynecke at hooker. With over 117 caps, Flavin is one of Connacht's most experienced players and even allowing for Mick Kearney's youth the pack boasts 765 caps between them

There are three changes to the starting backline. Frank Murphy makes way for Paul O'Donohoe at scrumhalf; Brian Tuohy replaces Fetu'u Vainikolo on the wing; and Connacht's newest signing Kyle Tonetti takes over from the injured Dave McSharry.

Tonetti joined Connacht from Sale Sharks earlier this season and steps in for McSharry who required stitches to his chin following the St Stephen’s Day clash with Munster.

Connacht team to face Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Sunday 1 January at the Sportsground, Galway, kick-off 5pm:

15: Gavin Duffy CAPTAIN
14: Brian Tuohy
13: Eoin Griffin
12: Kyle Tonetti
11: Tiernan O'Halloran
10: Niall O'Connor
9: Paul O'Donohoe
1: Brett Wilkinson
2: Adrian Flavin
3: Ronan Loughney
4: George Naoupu
5: Mike McCarthy
6: Mick Kearney
7: Johnny O'connor
8: John Muldoon

16: Ethienne Reynecke
17: Denis Buckley
18: Dylan Rogers
19: Eoin McKeon
20: TJ Anderson
21: Frank Murphy
22: Matthew Jarvis
23: Henry Fa'afili