Lam side limited for Newcastle

Connacht head coach Pat Lam

Des Berry

It would seem Pat Lam wasn't bluffing.

The Connacht coach has only been able to name 22 players for what very well could be a bridge too far in Pool 1 of The Challenge Cup in the North of England.

Tweny-two-year-old Shane O'Leary will make his first start for the Western province in the number ten jersey with Jack Carty, 23, restricted to the bench.

It makes for an inexperienced half-back combination with Caolan Blade, 21,who made his first start of the season last week.

The outside artillery is not exactly overrun with first choice options either.

Rory Parata, 21, Peter Robb, 21, and quicksilver late bloomer Niyi Adeolokun, 25, will be keen to show what they can do.

There is also room for former Ireland U20 captain Seán O'Brien, 21, in the back row with Eoghan Masterson and the evergreen George Naoupu.

Nineteen-year old loose-head Conan O'Donnell will need assistance from hooker Jason Harris-Wright and Rodney Ah You,

Strategically, Connacht can afford to lose this one as they hold a seven-point lead over The Falcons.

There are the external factors of Ulster coming to Galway on St Stephen's Day and going to Leinster on New Year's Day.

Newcastle: S Hammersley; A Tait, B Agulla, C Harris, M Watson; C Willis, S Takulua; A Rogers, S Lawson, J Welsh, M Botha, S Robinson, W Welch (Capt), D Temm, A Hogg.

Connacht: D Poolman; R Parata, P Robb, C Ronaldson, N Adeolokun; S O'Leary, C Blade; C O'Donnell, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, D Qualter, A Browne, S O'Brien, E Masterson, G Naoupu (Capt).

Verdict: Newcastle.