John Muldoon and Kieran Marmion return as Connacht make five changes for Zebre

Craig Ronaldson comes back into the starting line-up, while new recruit Tom Farrell makes the matchday squad

BY Cian Roche 12:24 Friday 13 January 2017, 12:24 13 Jan 2017

Pat Lam will be happy to see a number of first team regulars return to the team as he makes five changes for Connacht's Champions Cup clash with Zebre.

The Guinness PRO12 champions have suffered numerous injuries to key players over the past few weeks, the latest of which was Jack Carty who picked up a knee injury against Ospreys. Heading into the clash against the Welsh side, Connacht were without 20 first team players through injury.

Craig Ronaldson returns from injury to start at inside centre while John Cooney will play at out-half for the first time in his career. The returning Kieran Marmion comes in at scrum half.

Up front, Lewis Stevenson comes in to start in the second row, having made 10 appearances from the bench this season. 

Captain John Muldoon comes into the back row having recovered from injured which forced him to miss last week's game, while Eoin McKeon is named at openside flanker.

"We’re excited by the challenge that the Champion Cup presents to us and the opportunity to qualify for the last eight of the competition," Lam said in statement. "First up, we have a big game against Zebre tomorrow and are fully focused on putting in a performance to get us the points we need.

"Zebre are determined to get their first win in Europe and we know what they are capable of on their day. We have the advantage of being at home in front of our supporters so it’s up to us to ensure we get the job done."

Zebre were comfortably beaten by Leinster at the RDS last Friday, a performance which drew criticism upon the Italian side. The nature of their defeat prompted further questions of the team's pedigree and whether they should be in the competing in the PRO12.

Connacht XV to face Zebre (Caps)

15 Tiernan O’Halloran (116)
14 Niyi Adeolokun (47)
13 Rory Parata (24)
12 Craig Ronaldson (56)
11 Matt Healy (82)
10 John Cooney (29)
9 Kieran Marmion (113)

1 Denis Buckley (106)
2 Tom McCartney (54)
3 Finlay Bealham (70)
4 Lewis Stevenson (10)
5 James Cannon (7)
6 Sean O’Brien (29)
7 Eoin McKeon (100)
8 John Muldoon (290) 

Replacements:

16 Dave Heffernan (73)
17 JP Cooney (42)
18 John Andress (2)
19 James Connolly (21)
20 Naulia Dawai (4)
21 Caolin Blade (36)
22 Tom Farrell (0)
23 Danie Poolman (77)

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