Prop Denis Buckley is set to make his 150th appearance for his province as the Roscommon man is named in Connacht’s starting side to face Munster in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 7:35pm). Tickets for the interpro derby have completely sold out as Andy Friend’s side go into the fixture with six wins in their last seven games.
Buckley is named in a front row that includes hooker Dave Heffernan who takes over the captaincy from Jarrad Butler who picked up a knock in the win over Ulster. In the second row the partnership of Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury continues with Ultan Dillane named among the replacements.
In the back-row Paul Boyle is named at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Eoghan Masterson coming into the starting side at number 8.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half back partnership, with Blade named in the match day squad for the 16th game in a row.
In the midfield Tom Daly, who joined Connacht on loan in December, is set to make his Connacht debut alongside Tom Farrell.
In the back three, Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy returns from injury to take his place on the wing with Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Darragh Leader at full back.
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend, says his side face another huge challenge against Munster; “This block of three interpros is a tough series of fixtures and has a huge bearing on the overall context of the season. We were disappointed to lose narrowly to Leinster in Dublin but we showed great character to bounce back and beat a really tough Ulster side last weekend. This clash with Munster is a big game and we will have to put in a huge performance to get a result on Saturday. As always though we will focus on our game. That’s where our focus has been all week and that’s where it has been all season.
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added; “Dave Heffernan takes over the captaincy from Jarrad this week as he is carrying a knock. It’s also a huge occasion for Denis Buckley and his family as he will play his 150th game in a Connacht jersey. We are looking forward to another huge occasion in the Sportsground and we can see the people of the province have voted with their feet again with the game completely sold out since early in the week. They have been huge for us this season both home and away and we will be looking to feed off them again on Saturday evening.
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (Capt), Dominic Robertson Mc-Coy, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Angus Lloyd, David Horwitz, Colm DeBuitlear.