The Connacht Rugby coaching team have named their matchday squad for Friday night’s United Rugby Championship opener away to Cardiff (k/o 7.35pm).
After a two-try performance for the Eagles last week, new signing Mack Hansen has been handed his Pro debut after he was named on the wing. Fellow Aussie John Porch is named on the other wing with Tiernan O’Halloran operating at full-back.
Tom Farrell starts his first competitive game since November after his serious knee injury, with the 28-year old named in the centre alongside Tom Daly who makes his 50th appearance for the province. Irish internationals Kieran Marmion and Jack make up the half-back pairing.
Club captain Jarrad Butler is named at number 8 alongside flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver, while Oisín Dowling and Ultan Dillane start together in the second row.
The starting line-up is completed by hooker Shane Delahunt and props Matthew Burke and Finlay Bealham.
There’s also a potential debut off the bench for Hubert Gilvarry. The scrum-half has represented Sligo RFC and Sligo Grammar School and has been integrated in the Pro setup the last number of weeks.
Head Coach Andy Friend says: “It's been a really productive pre-season campaign so we're all really looking forward to this URC opener. It's a difficult opening game as Cardiff are always a formidable outfit especially at home, but we've prepared in the right way and are confident we can put in a really strong performance.
Mack Hansen has been very impressive since arriving so fully deserves his first start, and in Hubert Gilvarry we have another Connacht native ready to make his debut if called upon. I know his inclusion in the matchday 23 will be a very proud day for all at Sligo RFC and Sligo Grammar School.” CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS CARDIFF RUGBY
Friday 24th September, Cardiff Arms Park @ 19:35
Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (190)
14. John Porch (40)
13. Tom Farrell (62)
12. Tom Daly (49)
11. Mack Hansen *
10. Jack Carty (159)
9. Kieran Marmion (187)
1. Matthew Burke (23)
2. Shane Delahunt (100)
3. Finlay Bealham (159)
4. Oisin Dowling (7)
5. Ultan Dillane (114)
6. Cian Prendergast (10)
7. Conor Oliver (20)
8. Jarrad Butler (73) (C)
16. Dave Heffernan (144)
17. Jordan Duggan (13)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (68)
19. Niall Murray (18)
20. Paul Boyle (57)
21. Hubert Gilvarry *
22. Conor Fitzgerald (36)
23. Sammy Arnold (16)