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Lam pieces together squad for visit of Newcastle

Connacht boss forced to shuffle the deck and includes plenty of youngsters for Challenge Cup clash.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

PAT LAM HAS made 10 changes for Connacht’s Challenge Cup clash against the Newcastle Falcons tomorrow as he tries to piece together a squad after a horror run of injuries.

Connacht are currently operating with the bare minimum of personnel and Lam has had to name hooker Dave Heffernan on the bench as cover for the back-row.

Connacht’s eight-game unbeaten record ended with a 20-16 Pro12 defeat in Cardiff last week.

Jack Carty is retained at out-half while 21-year-old Caolin Blade is handed the number nine shirt for his first start this season, having made an appearance from the bench in Krasnoyarsk last month.

Scrum-halves Kieran Marmion and Ian Porter left the field with injuries last week leaving winger Matt Healy to fill in. But Porter has recovered sufficiently to be named on the bench.

There is a new midfield partnership for Connacht with academy duo Rory Parata and Peter Robb named to start. Niyi Adeolokun is promoted to the right wing while Healy, on the left, gets his first taste of European action this season.

Galway man Tiernan O’Halloran will captain the side from fullback.

In the pack, there are just two players remaining from last week, Aly Muldowney and James Connolly, who, this week, was one of three academy players to sign a senior contract for next season.

Prop Finlay Bealham, now the only player to have been involved in every game this season, starts in a new front row with Jason Harris-Wright and Ireland international Nathan White.

Ultan Dillane returns to the second row to partner Muldowney while Galway man Sean O’Brien earns his first senior start coming in to a back row with Connolly and the experienced George Naoupu at Number 8.

Danny Qualter is included among the replacements with Heffernan, Shane O’Leary and Danie Poolman.

“With 18 players unavailable through injury from our European squad, it was certainly a challenge to piece together a match-day squad for tomorrow,” Lam said.

“We are forced to name the 23 remaining players which include three hookers in the team as Dave (Heffernan) will be required to cover the back-row.

“Thankfully Danie (Poolman) and Ian (Porter) passed late fitness tests this morning to take their place on the bench.  While it isn’t ideal, it’s simply another test for us to meet head on.

“Newcastle will bring their own strengths and we are expecting a very physical battle. Despite all the changes, if we work together as a team and stick to our structures tomorrow night, we’ll increase our chances of getting the job done.

“We’re really looking forward to playing back at the Sportsground in front of our home crowd again after a few weeks on the road.”

Connacht: T O’Halloran (captain); N Adeolokun, R Parata, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; F Bealham, J Harris-Wright, N White; U Dillane, A Muldowney; S O’Brien, J Connolly, G Naoupu.

Replacements: S Delahunt, C O’Donnell, R Ah You, D Qualter, D Heffernan, I Porter, S O’Leary, D Poolman.

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