Preview: Connacht v Edinburgh

Date published: October 30 2015

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Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named his side to play Edinburgh at the Sportsground in Round Six of the PRO12 on Saturday.

Following last week's win over the Ospreys, there are three changes to the side. In the starting XV, the backline remains unchanged while Tom McCartney, Andrew Browne, and John Muldoon (captain), all return to the pack.

Returning international Nathan White is named on the bench for what could be his first PRO12 appearance since his Rugby World Cup campaign.

Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, head coach Lam said: "While we're happy with where we're at so far, we know it's only going to get tougher, and this week the focus has been all about what we need to do next. We are under no illusions of the physical battle we face on Saturday and with that in mind, it’s great to be able to bring in the experience of guys like Tom (McCartney), John (Muldoon) and Andrew (Browne).

"Obviously Nathan (White) returning is a big boost for us and we're pleased to have him involved this week. After a busy few games in the World Cup, Robbie (Henshaw) is not far off and we should see him next week against Treviso.

"We're really looking forward to playing at home again tomorrow and protecting our home record is number one on the agenda."

Meanwhile, following last weekend's defeat away to Zebre, there are seven changes to the Edinburgh starting XV that will take on Connacht in Galway.

18-year-old Blair Kinghorn, who made his professional debut last Saturday off the bench in Parma, starts at full-back with Damien Hoyland and Will Helu switching wings to take the 14 and 11 shirts respectively.

Chris Dean returns from injury at outside centre where he's partnered by Sam Beard who comes back into the mix at 12.

Phil Burleigh retains his spot at fly-half with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne moving up from the bench to start in the number nine jersey.

In the pack, the front-row of Rory Sutherland, Neil Cochrane and John Andress remain at loosehead, hooker and tighthead respectively with Anton Bresler and Fraser McKenzie retained at lock.

Captain Mike Coman leads the team on the blindside, Roddy Grant returns at openside and Nasi Manu keeps his number eight berth from last week.

The capital club will be looking for a repeat of their away win over the Irish province from last January, where a David Denton try and 11 points from the boot of Hidalgo-Clyne, in challenging conditions, came on the back of Edinburgh's 1872 Cup victory.

After last week's defeat away to Zebre, however, head coach Alan Solomons is looking for a major step up in performance this Saturday.

He said: "We dropped off too much after [the win over] Ulster. We gave away too many penalties and this week’s challenge will be much tougher."

With the exception of Hidalgo-Clyne and Helu, who returned to the squad following Tonga's exit at the pool stages, Edinburgh are still without the services of their Rugby World Cup players.

Solomons said: "We have nine frontline players out. The cavalry will be back next week however we have a number of players on the injured list with Stuart McInally and Ben Toolis, for example, missing longer term.

"The team need to perform strongly to put right last week's performance as Zebre was a game we should have won."

Connacht currently lie second in the PRO12, the same four from five win ratio as Edinburgh but having accumulated more bonus points. They have won two of the last three visits to the province and have beaten two Irish sides already this season, Ulster and Leinster.

Form: Connacht lie in second place in the Guinness PRO12 table, which is their best position after a round of games since they topped the pile following the opening round of fixtures in season 2010/11. Connacht's only reversal so far this season was 32-33 at Glasgow Warriors in round 2. Edinburgh's perfect start to the new PRO12 campaign ended with their trip to Zebre on Saturday. The Scotsmen have won both of their fixtures played against Irish Provinces this season, beating Leinster in round 1 and Ulster in round 4. Each side won its respective away game when the two teams met in the PRO12 last season with Edinburgh winning on two of their last three visits to the Sportsground.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Nathan White, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Rory Parata, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Will Helu, 10 Phil Burleigh, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 John Andress, 2 Neil Cochrane, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Alex Toolis, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Dougie Fife, 23 Nick McLennan.

Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Sportsground
Kick-off: 18:45 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Stuart Douglas (Ireland)

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