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Preview: Connacht v Zebre

10th January 2014 09:18

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Pat Lam Connacht v Toulouse HEC 2013

Optimistic: Pat Lam

Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam has made two personnel changes to his side to face Zebre in round 5 of the Heineken Cup at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday.

Both of those changes are in the pack. 21-year-old Jake Heenan, who missed out on the last two games due to injury, is named to start in the back row. John Muldoon returns to his regular position of blindside flanker, having covered the openside in Heenan's absence. The Portumna-born forward will also captain the side this week, after Craig Clarke was ruled out with a neck injury sustained at the Sportsground last time out. In the New Zealander's place, Andrew Browne slots into the second row to partner Mick Kearney.

In the front row, Sligo-born hooker Sean Henry, whose last game was against Toulouse in the home Heineken Cup clash, has returned from injury to start tomorrow.

The same all Irish qualified backline that started against Leinster is selected to face Zebre while Gavin Duffy is named on the replacements bench

"It's no secret that we were frustrated with the manner in which we lost the game last week," Lam told the Connacht website

"But as everyone saw, there were some positives from that game, including the encouraging performances from our young back line. We have decided to retain this selection for the game against Zebre - another huge challenge. This is Jack's first taste of Heineken Cup rugby and also a first start for young Darragh (Leader) in the competition. It's another big boost to their development as young Irish and Connacht-born players.

"It's fantastic to welcome back Jake (Heenan) and Sean (Henry) to the match day XV. It's a long season and the last numbers of games have been extremely physical, taking its toll on some of our players. We've had to plan without Craig (Clarke) this week but getting some players back from injury has meant we have the strength and depth to make the necessary changes.

"There's a huge sense of anticipation around this game. We're still alive in Europe but we need to make sure we are focused this week and do everything we can to get a good win at home against Zebre. We are not underestimating them. They are a team that have been improving with every game and they deserved their win against Treviso last week. They'll be coming here full of confidence looking for their first ever win in the Heineken Cup."

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 John Muldoon (capt), 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris Wright, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Gavin Duffy,

Zebre: 15 Gullo Palazzani, 14 Giiulio Toniolatti, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Samu Vunisa, 7 Dries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (capt), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice , 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 David Ryan, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Roberto Quartaroli, 22 Ruggero Trevisan, 23 David Odiete,

Date: Saturday 10th January
Venue: Galway Sportsground
Kick-off: 1540 (local and GMT)
Referee: Neil Paterson (Sco)

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PosTeamPPts
1Toulouse623
2Saracens620
3Connacht613
4Zebre60