Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has given 21 year old Sligo man Cillian Gallagher his first start of the season as Connacht take on Conference rivals Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm).
Gallagher is one of ten changes to the Connacht side that played Bordeaux last weekend, with six players away on international duty and Gavin Thornbury picking up a shoulder injury in training during the week.
In the front row, Denis Buckley is named at loosehead alongside Finlay Bealham at tighthead and hooker Dave Heffernan, who signed a contract extension this week. Gallagher’s inclusion in the second row sees him form a partnership with James Cannon, while in the back row captain Jarrad Butler comes back into the side at number 8 alongside flankers Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a.
The half-back pairing sees James Mitchell coming in to partner David Horwitz who is retained at out-half.
The back three sees Tiernan O’Halloran starting again at full-back with Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher on the wings. In the midfield, on loan centre Tom Daly starts his second game of the season alongside Kyle Godwin.
Head Coach Andy Friend says that this is a hugely important fixture in Connacht’s season; "We have won eight of our last ten games so we go into the game with confidence but we know what a tough team Cardiff are to play, especially when they are at home.
"These inter-conference games have a huge bearing on the overall standings in the PRO14 so we are fully aware of the importance of the fixture."
"We have made a few changes to our match day squad with players away on international duty and a few injuries to contend with, but we have picked a team that we have full confidence in to go to Cardiff and get a result."
Connacht team: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, David Horwitz, James Mitchell; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Conor Fitzgerald, Stephen Fitzgerald.