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©INPHO/Billy Stickland Mike Brown of Herlequins and Tiernan O'Halloran compete for a bouncing ball.
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Heineken Cup: O'Halloran return softens Parks blow for Connacht
Danie Poolman is also missing from the line-up for the tough away trip to face Harlequins.

CONNACHT’S HOPES OF reversing their Heineken Cup loss to Harlequins earlier in the season have bit hit by the loss of Dan Parks and Danie Poolman to injury.

Head coach Eric Elwood has made three personnel changes to the team that beat Dragons last Saturday.

Two of the alterations have been forced upon Elwood with Parks and Poolman unable to shake off niggles. Connacht are hoping to get them back for the Zebre match on 20 January.

In the back line, Tiernan O’Halloran starts on the right wing, in place of Poolman, while Fetu’u Vainikolo is named at number 11.

Matthew Jarvis replaces Dan Parks at out-half in what will be his third Heineken Cup game. The 22-year-old came off the bench in the back-to-back fixtures against French side Biarritz.

Here’s Johnny

The back row has been boosted with the return from injury of flanker Johnny O’Connor, who missed out on last weekend’s clash.

O’Connor starts at Openside while Eoin McKeon, who this week signed a two year extended contract with the province, moves to Number 8, replacing the injured George Naoupu.

Miah Nikora, who returned to training last week following injury, is named on the bench along with replacement winger James Loxton, who could earn his first Heineken Cup appearance on Saturday afternoon at The Stoop.

Michael Swift, Kieran Marmion and Dave McSharry were all injury worries earlier in the week but came through the province’s Galway training sessions successfully.

Elwood believes Harlequins are a ‘hugely strong team’ but is not deterred from what he feels is a massive opportunity to turn over his former international teammate Conor O’Shea [Quin's director of rugby]. He said:

They’ve blitzed everybody in our pool so far.  But the good news for us is that we’re going there with confidence after the win against Dragons last week.

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“We had a great game against Quins here in October where we both tried to play ball and we’re going to have the same mind-set this week.”

Elwood added, “Its Heineken Cup rugby and we want to show people what we can do. It’s going to be difficult but we know the challenge facing us and we want to play our game.”

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; M Jarvis, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, J Loxton.

* will be liveblogging all the action from The Stoop from 1:15pm tomorrow.

Explainer: What the Irish provinces need to do to reach Heineken Cup 1/4 finals

I’d take Ulster at Ravenhill over Barcelona at the Nou Camp any day – Duncan Weir

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