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Coach Pat Lam calling for patience as Mils Muliaina makes bow

By Cian Tracey

It's the moment every Connacht fan has been waiting for and in truth, the majority of Irish rugby fans in general as Mils Muliaina makes his long-awaited first appearance for the Western Province.

The 34-year old, who won 100 caps for New Zealand, signed with Connacht in May following a lucrative three-year spell in Japanese rugby.

An elbow injury delayed his debut but he lines out against Zebre in a backline that also includes Pat Lam's second marquee signing, Bundee Aki. Former Auckland Blues hooker Tom McCartney is on the bench.

"It's really fantastic to have our three new signings available for this game as we planned," Lam said.

"They have all settled in very well, getting to know their team-mates and the new systems.

"We know there is a lot of anticipation around Mils' debut. This is Connacht's first All Black about to play at the Sportsground so it's obviously very exciting for everyone.

"While the expectation is high, we have to keep in mind that this will be his first game since March.

"But Mils is a true professional and has shown his experience during rehab, training and off the field. He is gunning to get out there and show us what he can do."

Lam has made seven changes to the side beaten by Ospreys last time out.

Out-half Miah Nikora starts his first game of the season, partnered by Ian Porter. Danie Poolman is recalled to the right wing.

Up front, Ronan Loughney switches to tighthead, with Willie Faloon back at openside.

Expectations have rarely been as high in Connacht. With the infectious buzz that surrounds the province at the moment, it's difficult not to get excited about what Lam is building.

Zebre will be looking to upset another Irish province having beaten Ulster this season but with a packed house set to descend upon the Sportsground, it's all set up to be a memorable night in Galway.

If Mils and company deliver the goods, of course.

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