Vainikolo and McCarthy return for Connacht

Eric Elwood has made two changes to his starting XV after last weekend’s defeat to Leinster.

Winger Fetu'u Vainikolo and lock Mike McCarthy return to the team for tomorrow’s RaboDirect PRO 12 meeting with the Dragons at the Sportsground (5pm).

Tongan flyer Vainikolo represents the only change to the backline and is named alongside Robbie Henshaw and Danie Poolman in a young back three.

Eoin Griffin and Dave McSharry continue their impressive midfield partnership wile Dan Parks is again paired with Kieran Marmion at halfback.

The front row trio of Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White (captain) remains while McCarthy comes into the second row to join Michael Swift.

Meanwhile, in the back row, versatile forward George Naoupu returns to his regular Number 8 position and Eoin McKeon is moved to openside flanker with Andrew Browne named at blindside.

The first game of the New Year sees Connacht take on the team immediately below them in the league table. The Welsh outfit won 14-3 when they sides met at Rodney Parade in November.

Connacht (v. Dragons): R Henshaw; D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White capt; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu.

Replacements: E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O’Donohoe, M Jarvis, T O’Halloran.

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