Sligo native and Connacht Academy player Cillian Gallagher is set to make his first start for Connacht in the Challenge Cup clash away to Brive on Saturday (K.O. 8pm). Gallagher who made his debut off the bench in the Challenge Cup win over Worcester in October, starts at blindside in a back row that includes Eoghan Masterson at openside and Captain John Muldoon at number 8.

 

The Connacht starting XV also sees the new centre partnership of new signing Pita Ahki and Ireland international Bundee Aki, who returns to the side after his involvement in the November internationals.

 

In the pack Shane Delahunt is retained at Hooker where he is flanked by Denis Buckley at loose head and Finlay Bealham at tight head.

 

Connacht have got off to a good start so far in the Challenge Cup and sit on top of Pool 5 in the competition with 9 points after two rounds. The back to back fixtures against their French opponents are likely to have a huge bearing on who qualifies for the knock out stages of the competition.

 

Speaking ahead of the game, Connacht Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy is under no illusion of the battle they face against the Top14 side: “We are expecting a huge physical battle against Brive on Saturday. They will have a big strong pack and will look to maul at every opportunity. We will need to match that physicality and we have been really focusing on in training during the week.”

 

#BRIvCON

Kick-off 8:00pm (Irish Time):

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion,
(1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, Eoghan Masterson, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, James Connolly, James Mitchell, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader.

 

Brive v Connacht

 

 

This Saturday focus shifts to the European Challenge for our clash away to Brive (K.O. 8pm – live commentary on Galway Bay Fm).

Ahead of the game our medical team issued a squad update at the pre-game press conference.

 

Prop:
Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.

JP Cooney sustained a hamstring injury in a club game last weekend and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Lock:
Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Back Row:
James Connolly played versus Zebre last week in his first game since his ankle injury with no after effects.

Eoin McKeon is continuing his rehabilitation from his hamstring injury versus Cardiff and is planned to return to training next week.

Jake Heenan injured his shoulder versus Cardiff and underwent surgery last week. He will be out of action until April 2018.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return to training in the coming weeks.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Centre:
Craig Ronaldson (calf) and Peter Robb (hip) have both returned to full training and are available for selection this week.

 

Back Three:
Stacey Ili (shoulder) has returned to full training and is available for selection this week.

Rory Scholes is continuing his recovery following the removal of his appendix.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery.

 

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