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Connacht put faith in youth as they target Scarlets scalp

IN the week when they signed an experienced ex-international out-half in Dan Parks, Connacht have displayed their faith in home-grown players by naming three academy starlets in their match-day squad to play the Scarlets tonight.

Flanker Dave Heffernan will make his full debut at Parc y Scarlets, while Mick Kearney starts in the second-row for the 10th time this season and Denis Buckley -- who made his first competitive start in the win over Edinburgh last weekend -- takes his place on the bench.

"It's great to see the guys getting the reward for their hard work," said academy manager Nigel Carolan.

Tight-head prop Peter Borlase also makes his debut, having switched from Munster.

Connacht go in search of their first away win in the competition since they beat Treviso in September 2010, but they are without Brett Wilkinson and Mike McCarthy, who are on international duty.

Scarlets welcome back five Welsh internationals who were released by Warren Gatland.

Stephen Jones starts at out-half, with Liam Williams (wing) Rhodri Jones (prop) and second-rows Lou Reed and Aaron Shingler all included in the starting XV as the hosts look to secure their seventh consecutive win in the competition -- their best run since 2006.

They are within three points of fourth spot, while Connacht languish in 10th.

Verdict: Scarlets.

Scarlets -- D Newton; L Williams, G Maule (capt), A Warren, A Fenby; S Jones, L Davies; R Jones, E Phillips, D Manu, L Reed, A Shingler; J Turnbull, J Edwards, K Murphy. Reps: K Myhill, P John, P Edwards, D Day, M Gilbert, G Davies, N Reynolds, V Longi.

Connacht -- G Duffy; F Vainikolo, E Griffin, D McSharry, T O'Halloran; M Nikora, F Murphy; R Loughney, A Flavin, P Borlase; M Swift, M Kearney, D Heffernan, R Ofisa, G Naoupu. Reps: E Reynecke, D Buckley, S Maguire, J Muldoon, E Grace, D Moore, M Jarvis, K Tonetti.

Ref -- M Mitrea (France).

Irish Independent