Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made a total of ten changes to the side that won away to Perpignan in the European Challenge Cup last weekend, as Connacht take on Leinster in the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 7:45pm).
Included in the starting side are internationals Finlay Bealham
and Ultan Dillane
as Bundee Aki is named among the replacements.
Bealham comes back into a front row that sees Denis Buckley
returning at loosehead and Tom McCartney
retained at hooker. In the second row Dillane will line up alongside Gavin Thornbury
with James Cannon named among the replacements.
Captain Jarrad Butler
comes back into the side at blindside alongside Colby Fainga’a
and Paul Boyle
at number 8. Jack Carty
and Caolin Blade
renew their half-back partnership, while the back three sees Darragh Leader
come in for Matt Healy who picked up a knock in training during the week, with Cian Kelleher
named on the opposite wing with Tiernan O’Halloran
at full back. The midfield pairing of Tom Farrell
and Kyle Godwin
completes the side.
Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side face a big challenge in the RDS: “We have gone through a really good run with five wins in row, with real competition emerging in the squad. The win away in France last weekend keeps the confidence levels up and keeps that momentum going in the squad and throughout the organisation. We face a big challenge away to Leinster on Saturday. We know the depth they have and the quality in their squad so we will need a huge performance to challenge them especially when they are at home”
, Friend said.
However, Friend says that his side are hugely looking forward to the challenge; “Everyone wants to play against the top sides and see how they perform. We will play our game and implement our game plan and we will know where we are as we go into the new year. We have a huge series of games, with three interpros over the Christmas and New Year period so these three fixtures will be a huge test for our squad”.
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Bundee Aki.