Pat Lam has recalled the big guns for Connacht’s Challenge Cup quarter tomorrow
CONNACHT’S PRIMARY FOCUS may be on the Guinness Pro12 and securing an European berth for next season but Pat Lam is not putting all his eggs in one basket after naming a strong side to face Gloucester in tomorrow’s Challenge Cup quarter-final.
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The Western province have been knocked out of the competition at this stage on the last three occasions they’ve reached the quarter-finals but Lam is determined to end that run this time around.
Connacht travel to Kingsholm (7.45pm) on Good Friday and the head coach has included both Robbie Henshaw and Mils Muliania in his starting XV.
It will be Henshaw’s first appearance since returning from Six Nations duty, during which he played a pivotal role in Ireland’s Championship win.
The centre will partner Danie Poolman, the competition’s leading try-scorer, in midfield while there has been a back-line reshuffle to accommodate Muliania who returns to the fray after injury.
Tiernan O’Halloran shifts to the right wing with the former All Black, who announced this week he would be leaving the Sportsgrounds at the end of the season, slotting in at fullback.
Craig Ronaldson recovers from illness but must settle for a place on the bench.
“Playing a quarter final in any competition is massive and to be involved in knock out rugby at this stage of the season is what everyone wants,” Lam said.
In all, the head coach has made four changes from the side that suffered defeat at Thomond Park last time out.
Up front, South African Quinn Roux is named in the second row alongside Aly Muldowney while Andrew Browne starts at blindside flanker with captain John Muldoon wearing the number 8 shirt.
“There’s no doubt that going into the cauldron that is Kingsholm is a challenge for any team. Top seeds Gloucester are a side with quality internationals and a lot of experience,” Lam continued.
“But we have worked hard to get here and with a home semi final up for grabs, we’re looking forward to facing that challenge head on as a team.”
Connacht qualified from Pool 2 as one of the best runners-up after a bonus-point win over La Rochelle on the last gameweek.
The game is live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm.
15. Mils Muliaina
14. Tiernan O’Halloran
13. Danie Poolman
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Quinn Roux
5. Aly Muldowney
6. Andrew Browne
7. Eoghan Masterson
8. John Muldoon (captain)
16. Shane Delahunt
17. JP Cooney
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Mick Kearney
20. James Connolly
21. Ian Porter
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Darragh Leader
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