Connacht v Perpignan (Sat)

Joe Maksymiw
Former Leicester second row Joe Maksymiw will make his first start for Connacht
European Challenge Cup Pool Three
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway Date: Saturday, 8 December Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Preview, live updates and match report on BBC Sport website

Connacht and Perpignan have both made sweeping changes to their teams for their European Challenge Cup meeting at the Galway Sportsground on Saturday.

Ireland internationals Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux and Finlay Bealham have been restored as Connacht make 13 changes from their Pro14 win against Cheetahs.

Centre Pierre Lucas is the sole Perpignan player to be retained from their Top14 defeat by Bordeaux.

Former Ulster player Paddy Jackson has been rested by the French side.

Jackson joined Perpignan on a two-year contract in June after he had his Ulster and Ireland contract revoked by the the Irish Rugby Football Union after the 26-year-old was found not guilty of rape and sexual assault following a nine-week trial.

The fly-half has been a regular for his club this season but with Perpignan 11 points adrift at the foot of the Pro14 table he has been omitted from the travelling squad.

Wing Matt Healy and number Robin Copeland are the only Connacht players to retain their places in the starting team.

Aki partners Connacht academy centre Kieran Joyce in midfield while lock Joe Maksymiw makes his first start for the province.

Flanker Eoghan Masterson also makes his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury in time for the back-to-back matches against Perpignan.

“These two games will tell a lot. We have won one and lost one so far so these back-to-back games will have a huge say in where we stand in this competition,” said Connacht head coach Andy Friend.

“The mood in the squad is hugely positive. We are seeing some really strong competition developing for places and that is important. We want to take our good form into the Challenge Cup especially in front of our home crowd”.

Connacht: D Leader; C Kelleher, K Joyce, B Aki, M Healy; D Horowitz, J Mitchell; P McCabe, D Heffernan (capt), F Bealham, J Maksymiw, Q Roux, E Masterson, C Fainga’a, R Copeland.

Replacements: S Delahunt, M Burke, D Robertson-McCoy, G Thornbury, J Connolly, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, K Godwin.

Perpignan: J Bousquet; T Fainga’anuku, P Lucas, P Marty, E Sau; E Selponi, S Degmache; Q Walcker, R Carbou, N Lemaire, Y Vivalda, B Botha, J van Heerden, P Reynaud, M Faleafa.

Replacements: M Leiataua, K Tougne, S Charlet, A Roussel, E Iachizzi, T Ecochard, A Taumoepeau, J Farnoux.

Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)

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