Prop Finlay Bealham is set to make his 100th appearance for Connacht as they host Zebre in the Sportsground on Friday (K.O 7:35pm). Kieran Keane’s Connacht side are aiming to make it eight home wins in a row in all competitions in a run that stretches back to September.

Bealham is one of four changes to Connacht’s starting XV from the side that beat Ospreys last week. With Tiernan O’Halloran sidelined with a hamstring injury, Darragh Leader comes in at full back to join a back three that includes wingers Cian Kelleher and Matt Healy.

Sean O’Brien’s return from injury is a further boost as he starts at number 8 after picking up a shoulder injury in the win over the Southern Kings in September. O’Brien will be joined in the back row by openside Naulia Dawai and blindside Eoghan Masterson who captains the side.

The only other change is the inclusion of lock Gavin Thornbury who came on as a substitute in the victory over Ospreys.

Keane has named a strong squad with Ireland internationals Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux named among the replacements. Also named on the bench is John Muldoon and Conor Carey who continues his record of being named in every match day squad for Connacht so far this season.

Bealham is looking forward to leading the team out in front of a packed sportsground. Speaking to reporters ahead of the milestone game he said: ““To be in that bracket of players that have reached the 100 appearance milestone is something I’m really honoured to be a part of. From my family’s perspective, they’re really proud. To walk out there for the hundredth time in front of a Sportsground crowd in the great atmosphere they always create is something I’m really looking forward to”.

 

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Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson (Capt), Naulia Dawai, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Pita Ahki.

 

 

 

 

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