Preview: Connacht v Glasgow Warriors

Date published: September 2 2016

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named his first competitive XV of the new PRO12 season as his side prepares to host Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground on Saturday.

New signing Cian Kelleher will make his competitive debut lining out at full-back against the Scottish side. The 22-year-old is named in a back three with Niyi Adeolokun and Irish international Matt Healy.

Eoin Griffin has been handed the number 13 shirt for his return to the Sportsground after two seasons with London Irish. The 25-year-old from Galway will partner last season's PRO12 Players' Player Bundee Aki in midfield.

In the pack, Denis Buckley makes a welcome return to the front row after his lengthy lay off recovering from an ankle injury. Internationals Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane are also named and Nepia Fox-Matamua returns to start in the back row with Eoin McKeon and captain John Muldoon.

From the bench, Lewis Stevenson is in line to make his full Connacht debut and Kieran Marmion comes in as the replacement scrum-half.

"What an exciting game to kick off a new season at home where we have two teams who really like to express themselves. Games against Glasgow are always tough and uncompromising and with their impressive selection of international players, we expect that to be no different tomorrow, Lam said.

"It's a new season and a somewhat new-look side with just eight who started at Murrayfield in May lining out tomorrow. Today is the last time all 12 teams will be level on points. With five points on offer now our focus is on the process which will give us the best chance of winning.

"Starting the championship at home is a huge boost and we're looking forward to experiencing the magical atmosphere here at the Sportsground."

It is the third consecutive time the Warriors have faced Connacht in competitive action following two games at the Sportsground at the end of last season.

Sean Lamont could become the latest Glasgow centurion from the bench, while Ryan Grant will make his 100th PRO12 appearance if he comes on.

Scotland trio Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Jonny Gray return to the starting line-up after missing the Warriors pre-season fixtures.

Italian international Leonardo Sarto will make his competitive debut for the club on the right wing, while Alex Dunbar and Sam Johnson link up in midlfield.

Peter Horne starts at fly-half and co-captain Henry Pyrgos will wear the number nine jersey.

Scotland internationals Gordon Reid, Pat MacArthur and Zander Fagerson are named in the front-row, while Tim Swinson will partner co-captain Jonny Gray in the engine room. Rob Harley, Simone Favaro and Ryan Wilson make up the back-row.

Former All Black hooker Corey Flynn, Namibian international second-row Tjiuee Uanivi and BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 backrower Lewis Wynne could all make their debuts from the bench.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Our players have worked extremely hard over pre-season and we’re looking forward to going back to the Sportsground tomorrow night. 

"We have an experienced group heading to Ireland, one which will be full of determination to do much better than on our previous visit. It should be a fascinating contest." 

Form: Reigning PRO12 champions Connacht have begun their campaigns with an opening weekend victory in five of the past six seasons. Connacht’s solitary defeat in any competition at the Sportsground last season came at the hands of Ulster in the PRO12 on 26 December. Glasgow Warriors concluded last season with a pair of defeats, both to Connacht in Galway, and have not lost three in a row in the PRO12 for four years. The Warriors most recent victory in the Championship was a record one, beating Zebre 70-10 at Scotstoun in Round 21. Connacht’s victories over Glasgow Warriors in May in Round 22 and the semi-final ended a run of eight successive Warriors victories against the Irishmen.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Cian Kelleher, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Danny Qualter, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 James Connolly, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Shane O'Leary, 23 Peter Robb

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos (co-captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (co-captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Tjiuee Uanivi, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Ali Price, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway
Kick-off: 17:15 BST (16:15 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Eddie Hagan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)