Up front prop Denis Buckley returns to the side as does hooker Dave Heffernan. Tighthead Finlay Bealham showed no ill effect of his recent hand injury last time out and he retains his place in the front row. In the second row Irish International Ultan Dillane will partner Gavin Thornbury.
In the back row, Colby Fainga’a is the only change as he comes in at openside with Captain Jarrad Butler switching to number 8, while Eoin McKeon is named at blindside.
Ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are really looking forward to the challenge: “This is a massive game for us - knock-out rugby with the added incentive of an interpro. We said all season that we wanted to be playing at the business end of the season but now we want to go and win and get to a semi-final. I genuinely feel that we haven’t played our best rugby yet and we are constantly improving”.
“Ulster are an outstanding side. They have got better and better and we are facing a much stronger side than what we played earlier in the season. Facing them on their home patch makes the challenge even greater but we are really up for that challenge”, Friend added.
Commenting on his team selection, Friend said that there was huge competition to get into the match day squad. “This week we have had 46 players fit and available to us. We have used 50 players throughout the season so there are disappointed boys not to be in the match day 23. We also had some big calls to make in the starting team, but we have picked a team that we feel can go and win this quarter final and we have a bench that gives us even more options over the 80 minutes”.
CONNACHT STARTING XV & REPLACEMENTS VS ULSTER
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Darragh Leader.