Andy Friend has named his side to face Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow night, with the Head Coach making just one change to the team that was originally due to play Ospreys last week.
That game was postponed due to a COVID-19 case in the Welsh club, and the management have opted to stick with most of that same matchday 23, with some players looking to pick up some game time before a hectic period of Heineken Champions Cup and Christmas interpros.
The one change is at scrum-half where Caolin Blade has recovered from a recent hamstring injury to start his first game since late October, with Colm Reilly named among the replacements.
Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.
Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.
Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.
Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says: “Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week. In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”
Regarding this week’s game, Friend added: “Home games in the PRO14 are where we need to build up our points tally and tomorrow will be no different. It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.” CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm
Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)
NOTE: All players and management produced negative results in this week's round of PCR testing.