Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made six changes to his starting team ahead of Sunday’s Guinness PRO12 clash with Benetton Treviso in Italy.

Bundee Aki makes a welcome return to the side, lining out in midfield with Craig Ronaldson. Caolin Blade will start at scrumhalf once again having been drafted in late to the starting XV in place of Ireland international Kieran Marmion last Saturday.

Danie Poolman makes his 80th Connacht appearance coming in to start for Matt Healy who picked up a minor hip injury in training during the week.

Up front, hooker Shane Delahunt earns his third start of the season packing down in a front row with props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham. James Cannon comes in to the pack to join Ultan Dillane in the second row while Nepia Fox-Matamua gets his opportunity in the highly competitive back row alongside Galway duo Sean O’Brien and John Muldoon.

Commenting on the upcoming game, Pat Lam said:

“We know from experience how difficult it is to go to Treviso and get a good result. With the travel factor and the short turnaround on the other side, It is so important that we get our mental preparation spot on as well as the physical side of things.    

“Every game and every point is vital for us and we will be going to Italy fully intent on improving on last week’s performance.”

Connacht team to face Benetton Treviso   

Sunday February 26th, kick off 13:30, Stadio Monigo  

(Connacht caps in brackets)

15           Tiernan O’Halloran (120)
14           Niyi Adeolokun (51)
13           Bundee Aki (53)
12           Craig Ronaldson (60)
11           Danie Poolman (79)
10           Jack Carty (73)
9             Caolin Blade (39)

1             Denis Buckley (110)
2             Shane Delahunt (23)
3             Finlay Bealham (74)
4             Ultan Dillane (38)
5             James Cannon (11)
6             Sean O’Brien (33)
7             Nepia Fox-Matamua (18)
8             John Muldoon (294) (captain)

Replacements:

16          Dave Heffernan (77)
17          JP Cooney (45)
18          John Andress (4)
19          Quinn Roux (48)
20          Naulia Dawai (6)
21          John Cooney (33)
22          Tom Farrell (3)
23          Stacey Ili (9)

Injured: Conor Carey, Ivan Soroka, Conan O’Donnell, Marnitz Boshoff, Matt Healy, Cian Kelleher*, Darragh Leader, Josh Rowland.

*both Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher picked up injuries in training during the week

Paternity Leave: Tom McCartney

BENETTON RUGBY TREVISO v CONNACHT RUGBY
Sunday 26 February
At Stadio Monigo, 1.30pm local time (12.30pm Ireland & UK).

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 57th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Guiseppe Vivarini (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Marco Cordelli (FIR)

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