Eoin Griffin is poised to make his 100th appearance in a Connacht jersey as he is named on the bench for the Guinness PRO14 clash with the Dragons in the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5:15pm).
The Galway man made his Connacht debut in 2010 and is on his second term with the province having spent two campaigns with London Irish from 2014 to 2016. He returned to the Sportsground ahead of the 2016/17 season.
With Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux and Finlay Bealham all away on international duty in Chicago, Head Coach Andy Friend is forced to make a number of changes to his starting team. He is however boosted by the availability of Kieran Marmion who starts at scrum-half as he prepares for the upcoming home November internationals.
Marmion has a new half-back partner with David Horwitz set to make his first start for the province at out-half. Kyle Godwin also comes into the midfield where he partners Tom Farrell.
In the back three there is a start for Colm De Buitléar on the wing, with Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back.
In the forwards, Conor Carey steps in for Finlay Bealham while James Cannon comes into the second row for Quinn Roux.
The only other change is in the back row where captain Jarrad Butler starts at number 8 with Colby Fainga’a slotting in at openside.
Eoin Griffin is joined on the bench by academy player Matthew Burke and summer arrival Joe Maksymiw who are both in line to make their Guinness PRO14 debuts for the province.
Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend feels his players need to be capable of adapting to whatever is thrown at them; “We’ve got to be a team that can adapt. If we’re allowed to get the quick ball and play the way we want, we will threaten any side. If we can’t, whether that’s because of our ball carrying not being strong enough, or the ball not coming out because tacklers aren’t being removed, then we need to trust our defensive system. Our attack is potent enough if we get the ball we want, but if we can’t we have got to adapt”, Friend said ahead of the game.
Friend also praised experienced centre Eoin Griffin as he prepares his landmark achievement of 100th appearance with his home province, “Eoin Griffin is the ultimate professional rugby player, who is an example to every up and coming player in the province. It is fitting that he is making his 100th appearance in front of his home crowd. It is a significant milestone for him and his family and everyone in Connacht Rugby”, Friend said.
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Colm De Buitlear, David Horwitz, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conan O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.