Preview: Gloucester v Connacht

Date published: May 22 2015

With Connacht the visitors to Kingsholm in the Champions Cup play-off, Gloucester ring the changes from the side that took the field against Bath last weekend.

In fact, only three of the side that started at the Rec last Saturday are retained in the starting XV – Henry Purdy, Nick Wood and Dan Thomas.

Billy Twelvetrees will skipper the side which sees the return of seven fellow internationals – Charlie Sharples, Jonny May, James Hook, Greig Laidlaw, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Tom Palmer – who all missed out on the trip to Bath.

Meanwhile, Bill Meakes and Ross Moriarty are both back having served suspensions picked up in the club's last European outing – the Challenge Cup Final victory over Edinburgh three weeks ago.

And there will be a first European start for openside flanker Dan Thomas. The 21-year-old has made six starts for the club this season in domestic competition, scoring four tries.

The fixture is a repeat of this season's Challenge Cup quarter-final between the two sides at Kingsholm, which Gloucester edged narrowly 14-7.

The winner of Sunday's game will progress to a final play-off game against a side from the French Top 14 but, whatever the outcome, this will be Gloucester's final outing at Kingsholm this season.

Meanwhile, Pat Lam has made two personnel changes to his Connacht team.

John Cooney, who was this week named in the Emerging Ireland squad, comes in to start at scrum-half in the absence of the injured Kieran Marmion, while Ian Porter has been added to the replacements bench.

Marmion's season is unfortunately over as he suffered a medial ligament tear to his left ankle against the Ospreys and is facing up to four weeks' recovery time.

George Naoupu represents the only change to the province's starting pack, slotting into the second row alongside Aly Muldowney.

Tighthead prop Rodney Ah You will run out for his 100th appearance for the province, packing down in a front row with Tom McCartney and Connacht Forward of the Year Denis Buckley, who was also named in the Emerging Ireland squad this week.

22-year-old Academy forward James Connolly, who made an appearance at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final last month, is once again included among the replacements.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples, 14 Jonny May, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Purdy, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Jacob Rowan, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Rob Cook

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 George Naoupu, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 James Connolly, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Shane O'Leary

Date: Sunday, May 24
Venue: Kingsholm, Gloucester
Kick-off: 15:30 local (14:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant Referees: tbc
TMO: tbc