Masterson given chance to shine by Lam as Scarlets look to maintain winning form
A month after signing an academy contract, 20-year-old Eoghan Masterson has been handed his first Pro12 start by Pat Lam as Connacht host Scarlets at the Sportsground (5.0).
Despite having played for Ireland U-20s in this year's Six Nations, he went on to represent Scotland at the Junior World Championships. He will start at No 8.
Michael Swift makes his 250th appearance for the province and he takes his place in the second-row alongside Craig Clarke.
In the back division Eoin Griffin makes a welcome return to the first team. The experienced Gavin Duffy lines out at full-back, while Craig Ronaldson and Kieran Marmion start in the half-backs as Dan Parks drops to the bench.
Scarlets have been hit hard by international call-ups, with 10 of their frontline players unavailable for selection. Former Ireland international Simon Easterby has named Phil John as captain, with usual skipper Rob McCusker ruled out through injury.
Easterby will, however, be relieved he can name the same starting back-row that were so dominant in their last Pro12 game against Ulster, as Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull and Sione Timani all retain their places.
Connacht are bottom of the table with just one win – on the opening day of the season against Zebre – in seven games. The ever-improving Scarlets, on the other hand, have lost just one of their last four Pro12 games. They have also won their last three clashes with Connacht.
Connacht – G Duffy; D Leader, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy; C Ronaldson, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, S Henry, N White; M Swift, C Clarke (capt); A Muldowney, J Heenan, E Masterson. Reps: J Harris-Wright, R Loughney, R Ah You, M Kearney, G Naoupu, F Murphy, D Parks, F Carr.
Scarlets – G Owen; F Climo, G Maule, A Warren, N Reynolds; A Thomas, G Davies; P John (capt), K Myhill, J Adriaanse; J Bell, G Earle; A Shingler, J Turnbull, S Timani. Reps: D Harris, S Hopkins, I Jones, J Synman, D Thomas, A Davies, J Lewis, K Phillips.
REF – M Liperini (FIR)