The Connacht management team have made six changes to their starting XV, as the province aims to secure at home knockout tie in tomorrow’s EPCR Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons (k/o 5.30pm).
 
There are starts for Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Leva Fifita, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Fitzgerald and the fit-again Adam Byrne.
 
Fresh off his Ireland inclusion in the Six Nations, Finlay Bealham forms the front row with Buckley and Delahunt, while Josh Murphy keeps his place in the second row. The back row is completed by captain Jarrad Butler at number 8, and openside flanker Conor Oliver.
 
Colm Reilly is retained at scrum-half, while the Cathal Forde-Byron Ralston combo at centre continues after impressive performances last weekend. Byrne is named on the right wing, with Alex Wootton on the left and Mack Hansen again named at full-back.
 
A losing bonus point ensures a home tie in the Round of 16, but a bonus point win could also mean potential home games further in the knockout stages.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“It’s been a good Challenge Cup campaign for us so far, but tomorrow’s game is very important in mapping out our potential route in the knockout stages. We want to play as many games as possible at our home so we travel to England knowing every point matters.
 
Newcastle brought huge amounts of physicality to The Sportsground last month so it’s up to us to match that at their home turf, and as always away from home we then need to take our chances when the opportunities arise.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS NEWCASTLE FALCONS
Saturday 21st January, 17:30 @ Kingston Park

Number/Name/Caps
15. Mack Hansen (23)
14. Adam Byrne (4)
13. Byron Ralston (11)
12. Cathal Forde (6)
11. Alex Wootton (39)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (62)
9. Colm Reilly (16)
1. Denis Buckley (221)
2. Shane Delahunt (123)
3. Finlay Bealham (184)
4. Leva Fifita (21)
5. Josh Murphy (10)
6. Shamus Hurley-Langton (11)
7. Conor Oliver (53)
8. Jarrad Butler (106) (C)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (14)
17. Jordan Duggan (33)
18. Jack Aungier (42)
19. Darragh Murray (4)
20. Ciaran Booth (4)
21. Caolin Blade (160)
22. Tom Daly (70)
23. Tom Farrell (89)

Five Connacht players will represent the province for the first time in tomorrow’s pre-season friendly away to Castres (k/o 7pm Irish time).
 
Grant Stewart, Shamus Hurley-Langton, David Hawkshaw, Byron Ralston and Adam Byrne have all been selected in the starting XV for the first outing of the campaign.
 
Ralston partners Tom Daly in the centre who captains the side, while Byrne is selected on the wing with Alex Wootton on the opposite wing and Oran McNulty at full-back. Hawkshaw starts at out-half with scrum-half Caolin Blade alongside him.
 
Ciaran Booth and Hurley-Langton are selected at blindside and openside respectively with Sean Masterson at number 8. Niall Murray and Oisín Dowling are paired together in the second row, and the squad is completed by props Denis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy.
 
11 players are named among the replacements, five of whom are in the Academy. They are Eoin de Buitléar, Josh O’Connor, Charlie Ward, Bart Vermeulen and Donnacha Byrne.
 
CONNACHT SQUAD VS CASTRES OLYMPIQUE
Wednesday 24th August @ Stade de la Chevaliére, Mazamet (k/o 19:00 Irish time)
 
15. Oran McNulty
14. Adam Byrne
13. Byron Ralston
12. Tom Daly (c)
11. Alex Wootton
10. David Hawkshaw
9. Caolin Blade
1. Denis Buckley
2. Grant Stewart
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Niall Murray
5. Oisín Dowling
6. Ciaran Booth
7. Shamus Hurley-Langton
8. Seán Masterson

16. Eoin de Buitléar
17. Matthew Burke
18. Sam Illo
19. Darragh Murray
20. Oisín McCormack
21. Colm Reilly
22. Shane Jennings
23. Josh O’Connor
24. Charlie Ward
25. Bart Vermeulen
26. Donnacha Byrne

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce a further new addition to our Pro squad with the arrival of Leinster winger Adam Byrne from next season.
 
An Irish international at both senior and U20 level, Byrne became Leinster’s youngest ever player when he came on as a replacement against Connacht in 2012. In total he has played 64 times for the province scoring 24 tries.
 
He made his international debut in the 2017 November Internationals, lining out on the wing for the victory over Argentina that month.
 
Adam Byrne says looking forward to the time ahead with his new club:
 
“I feel that the time is right to seek out a new challenge and I am hugely excited by the challenge that Andy Friend has set for me and I look forward to contributing to a new environment from next season.
 
Connacht is an ambitious club and I am also fortunate that I already have mates playing there and I look forward to linking up with them ahead of a new season.”

 
Head Coach Andy Friend says Byrne will add something different to their back three options:
 
“Everyone in Irish rugby knows of the quality Adam has as a footballer. He will complement the style of rugby we play here at Connacht, and his height and strong physical attributes will also offer us something different. Many players have taken their games to a new level after being given the platform here at the club and I know Adam has what it takes to do the same.”

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