The Connacht management team have made five changes to their starting XV for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup interpro with Leinster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
Captain Jarrad Butler will make his first appearance in nearly 2 months following suspension and injury – he comes straight into the starting XV. Denis Buckley comes into the front row for his 198th appearance, while Niall Murray starts in the second row. Conor Fitzgerald starts at no.10 following an impressive cameo off the bench against Ulster, while the man who scored the match-winning try in that game, Peter Sullivan, is also handed a starting berth on the wing.
There’s also a 150th appearance for Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy who is named on the opposite wing.
Buckley lines up alongside Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while Gavin Thornbury completes the tight five. Butler starts at number 8 alongside flankers Eoghan Masterson and Conor Oliver.
Caolin Blade partners Conor Fitzgerald, while Tom Daly and Sean O’Brien play together at centre for the 5th straight game. With Healy and Sullivan on the wings, John Porch completes the side from full-back.
There’s also a welcome return among the replacements for Sammy Arnold, who hasn’t featured for four months since undergoing chest surgery.
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says: “We had a great win last time out in Belfast, but as always this year it’s now about backing that up and getting some consistency going. Leinster will travel to The Sportsground wanting to avoid three defeats so that’s a challenge in itself, but we’re also confident we can put in a performance capable of getting a win.
We’ve got a few players returning from injury which is always good, and Matt Healy hits a significant milestone as well so we’re very pleased with the team we’re able to select.”
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS LEINSTER RUGBY
Saturday 8th April, The Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm
15. John Porch (37)
14. Peter Sullivan (13)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (8)
12. Tom Daly (45)
11. Matt Healy (149)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (33)
9. Caolin Blade (128)
1. Denis Buckley (197)
2. Dave Heffernan (141)
3. Finlay Bealham (156)
4. Niall Murray (14)
5. Gavin Thornbury (57)
6. Eoghan Masterson (108)
7. Conor Oliver (18)
8. Jarrad Butler (70) (C)
16. Jonny Murphy (14)
17. Matthew Burke (21)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (64)
19. Cian Prendergast (6)
20. Abraham Papali’I (11)
21. Kieran Marmion (183)
22. Sammy Arnold (12)
23. Oran McNulty (1)