The Connacht management team have welcomed back a number of Irish internationals for tomorrow’s crucial Christmas interpro with Ulster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
There are 12 changes in all from the side that defeated Brive last week, with Shane Delahunt, Oisín Dowling and Bundee Aki the only players to retain their place in the starting XV.
Captain Jack Carty, Finlay Bealham, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver and John Porch all return after being rested for the two weeks of Challenge Cup rugby, while Mack Hansen has recovered from injury to also start.
Denis Buckley completes the front row with Delahunt and Bealham, while locks Josh Murphy and Niall Murray are paired together. Dowling retains his place at blindside flanker, with Oliver on the opposite side for his 50th appearance and Prendergast at number 8.
Caolin Blade is chosen at scrum-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. With Hansen and Porch on the wings, Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“We all realise the importance of tomorrow’s game in our aims for a top 8 finish this season. We’ve a number of players returning to us after a break, and have also included a few players in the 23 who impressed in the Challenge Cup, so there’s a good mix in our matchday squad.
Games against Ulster are always hugely intense, so the winners will be the ones who front up for the full 80 minutes. With a large crowd behind us and everyone in the Christmas spirit it’s sure to be a great occasion”.
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Friday 23rd December, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (211)
14. John Porch (68)
13. Tom Farrell (86)
12. Bundee Aki (122)
11. Mack Hansen (20)
10. Jack Carty (186) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (157)
1. Denis Buckley (218)
2. Shane Delahunt (120)
3. Finlay Bealham (181)
4. Josh Murphy (7)
5. Niall Murray (44)
6. Oisín Dowling (34)
7. Conor Oliver (49)
8. Cian Prendergast (35)
16. Dave Heffernan (174)
17. Peter Dooley (9)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (73)
19. Shamus Hurley-Langton (8)
20. Jarrad Butler (103)
21. Kieran Marmion (218)
22. David Hawkshaw (9)
23. Adam Byrne (3)