Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting team for the vital Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues in a sold out Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Centre Bundee Aki
replaces Peter Robb while flanker Paul Boyle
comes in for Eoin McKeon as Connacht target a win that will send them through to the playoffs of the Guinness PRO14 and guarantee a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Aki will form a midfield partnership with Tom Farrell
who was withdrawn early as a precaution against Zebre but is fit and available to take on Connacht’s Welsh rivals. There is a familiar look to the back three with Tiernan O’Halloran
named at full back while Darragh Leader
and Matt Healy
are selected on the wings. Jack Carty
and Caolin Blade
will also continue their half back partnership.
Paul Boyle’s selection at blindside sees him come into a back row with openside Colby Fainga’a
and Captain Jarrad Butler
at number 8.
The front five is unchanged with props Denis Buckley
and Dominic Robertson-McCoy
lining up in the front row alongside hooker Dave Heffernan
. In the second row Ultan Dillane
and Gavin Thornbury
continue their partnership.
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says he knows what is at stake against conference rivals Cardiff: “The stakes are really high but our destiny remains in our own hands. If we perform on Saturday and can win the game we can secure that play-off on Saturday and ensure a Champions Cup spot, which would be brilliant." “We know what we need to do to get a result. We must make sure we are nice and direct, that we control the football when we have it, and when we don’t, we don’t give them easy yardage”
, Friend added.
Commenting on his team selection he added: “We have made just two changes from the side that played last weekend, so we have consistency which is important going into a big game like this. We welcome Bundee Aki back into the side and as always he is rearing to go and get out there in front of the Sportsground crowd. Paul Boyle also comes back into the back row where we have the luxury of being able to rotate players due to our depth. We also have some great options off the bench”
. Connacht Matchday Squad:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Robin Copeland, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Cian Kelleher.