Connacht v Scarlets: Teams
At the Sportsground, Saturday September 15, kick-off 3.00pm
Last Updated: 14/09/12 2:16pm
Jonathan Davies: Will captain the Scarlets
Connacht will be hoping to halt Scarlets' blistering start to the new RaboDirect PRO12 season at the Sportsground.
The Welshmen have won their opening two fixtures and lead the way while Connacht gained a first win against Zebre last Friday.
The Scarlets have made eight changes to their starting XV for Saturday's PRO12 clash in Galway. Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby brings in a few new faces to his matchday squad and mixes up experience and youth with a number of player rotations for the contest.
Young Scarlets talent Jordan Williams gets his senior Scarlets debut at full-back where he replaces his namesake Liam Williams while new signing Australian Welsh-qualified second row Jake Ball is on the bench and gets his first opportunity to appear in his regional colours.
Wales international centre Jon Davies takes the captain's armband for the first time in his Scarlets rugby career.
Other changes to the back-line from last weekend's run-on side against Glasgow sees Gareth Davies replacing Tavis Knoyle at scrum-half, while Nick Reynolds comes in for Andy Fenby on the wing.
Amongst the forwards, Samson Lee starts at tight-head in his first competitive start and Phil John at loose-head prop, Sione Timani joins Richard Kelly in the second row. Lee takes over from Fiji international Deacon Manu while John and Timani come in for Rhodri Jones and George Earle respectively.
In the back row, Kieran Murphy starts at number eight with Scarlets skipper Rob McCusker on the bench and Josh Turnbull replaces Aaron Shingler on the flank.
Scarlets attack coach Mark Jones expects a tough assignment, commenting: "We haven't had a great record at the Sportsground and have tripped up on our last two visits with narrow losses, so we don't put ourselves in a position where we are fighting a tight margin at the end of the game.
"We will need to be ruthless and get ahead and then protect that lead. There is certainly no complacency in this side and absolutely no expectation on winning."
Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has made six changes to his run-on side for the encounter. Injury has forced an entire new back row and sees Andrew Browne named as blindside flanker.
This is Browne's first game back since he was injured during the 2011 pre-season. Willie Faloon and Eoin McKeon complete the all new back row and replace Johnny O'Connor and George Naopu respectively.
Brett Wilkinson will start in the loosehead prop position while new signing Nathan White gets his first start as tighthead prop. In the backs, Dave McSharry has been promoted to a starting berth, replacing Mata Fifita in the centre.
Elwood was very pleased with his team's performance in their 30-17 win over Zebre in Parma last week but knows there is a lot of work to do this weekend.
"We played well in Zebre scoring three tries away from home and securing our first win of the season," said Elwood. "The lads showed huge character in Italy, especially when we were forced into making so many changes in the second half.
"Tomorrow poses another challenge as Scarlets are top of the league and are playing very well. They've had a great start to the season, scoring 10 tries in the process."
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (c), 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Dennis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 David Gannon, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
Scarlets: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Nick Reynolds 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy. 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Peter Edwards, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.