Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht starting team to face Montpellier in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup in the Sportsground on Sunday (Kick off 1pm).
Irish international Bundee Aki is also set for his first start since the World Cup, following his appearance off the bench against Leinster last weekend.
The return of Aki and Dillane comes as a boost to Andy Friend and his coaching team as Connacht return to Champions Cup action after a two year absence. Dillane comes into the second row alongside Sligo man and former Ireland Under 20 international Cillian Gallagher.
In the front row, the inclusion of Dominic Robertson-McCoy is the only change from last weekend. The tighthead prop lines up alongside experienced hooker Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley at loosehead.
In the backrow, Colby Fainga’a comes in at blindside with Jarrad Butler at openside and Paul Boyle in his now familiar number 8 jersey.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half-back partnership and with Irish international Kieran Marmion on the injured list, Stephen Kerins is named as the replacement scrum-half for the second game in a row.
Bundee Aki will partner Kyle Godwin in midfield while the back three is made up of Darragh Leader at full back with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have received a boost this week with Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy returning from injury and Bundee Aki back in the starting side. They bring a huge amount of experience at this level and that will be invaluable to us. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday and we know the importance of getting off to a good start in this competition, especially at home”.
“We have had incredible support so far this season in the Sportsground and we are expecting a huge occasion again on Sunday afternoon. Everyone associated with Connacht Rugby is excited about our return to the Champions Cup and our focus now is on delivering a win against Montpellier”,
[maxbutton id="16" ]Connacht Matchday Squad V Montpellier (SUN 17 NOV, 1PM)
(15-9): Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cillian Gallagher, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Tom Daly, John Porch