A nervy but ultimately successful European Challenge Cup tie with Sale Sharks on Saturday means it’s still all to play for in Pool 3 with one round to go.
 
Victory for Connacht away to Bordeaux on Saturday would guarantee Andy Friend’s side a quarter-final spot, while Sale will qualify as pool winners with a bonus point victory at home to Perpignan.
 
Here are some of the best bits from Saturday’s game:
 

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Full back Tiernan O’Halloran has returned from a leg injury to take his place in the Connacht side to face Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 3pm). The injury ruled O’Halloran out of all three of Connacht’s interpro fixtures over the Christmas period.
 
He comes into a back line that also includes a new midfield pairing with Bundee Aki and Kyle Godwin both coming back into the starting team.
 
Following his contract extension earlier this week, Jack Carty continues at out half where he is partnered by former Sale Sharks player James Mitchell.
 
In the front row Denis Buckley is named at loosehead having recovered from illness that ruled him out of the clash with Munster. Buckley will make his 150th appearance for his province against the Premiership side following his late withdrawal last week.
 
There is also a new second row partnership with Ultan Dillane and James Cannon coming into the side, while in the back row Captain Jarrad Butler returns from injury and is named at number 8 alongside James Connolly and Eoghan Masterson.
 
With Connacht sitting just three points behind Sale in Pool 3, the result on Saturday will have a huge bearing on who qualifies for the knock out stages of the competition. Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says he feels his side have improved hugely since the teams last met in October; “Sale are a really good side and we saw the quality they have when we played them away earlier in the season. Since then though, we have improved with every game and we also picked up a vital away win against Perpignan in the competition before Christmas.”
 
We are very much alive in two competitions and want to reach the knock out stages in both. This is another big clash in front of a home crowd. Our support has been incredible all season and we are expecting another big atmosphere this week”, Friend added.
 
#CONvSAL
 
Kick-off 3pm:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, James Mitchell, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, Darragh Leader.

The Connacht squad trained at The Sportsground yesterday as preparations continue for Saturday’s crucial European Challenge Cup clash with Sale Sharks.
 
The two sides lead the way in Pool 3, so the tie will go a long way to deciding who’ll come out on top and secure a quarter-final spot later in the season.
 


 
A number of tickets remain available in the Bohermore End and can be purchased HERE, with all our areas of the ground either sold out or not available.

Christmas Time means Christmas Rugby, and this season is no different with a feast of action coming to The Sportsground over a two week period.

After we head to Leinster on the 22nd it’s full steam ahead for three huge home fixtures – two interprovincial derbies and a massive European Challenge Cup clash – so we’re offering you the perfect Christmas package to treat the special person in your life, or even yourself!

First up is the visit of Ulster on December 28th for our first Friday night fixture of the season. Our provincial neighbours will be gunning for revenge after our win in Belfast last October, so it’s sure to be another hotly contested clash. Don’t forget our last Sportsground meeting was a memorable 44-16 win last season, so fingers crossed for more of the same.


Then it’s our first clash of the season with Munster which historically is a fixture that needs no introduction. Like Ulster we also came out on top in our Galway meeting last season, overcoming a slow start for a 20-16 victory. The Reds are our conference rivals in the Guinness PRO14 so another win could go a huge way in our chase for Champions Cup rugby next season.


Finally it’s on to European Challenge Cup rugby as Sale Sharks pay a visit for a game which could have huge ramifications in our hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals. The English side got the better of us at the AJ Bell Stadium, so Andy Friend and his players will be going all out to make sure we return the favour.

You can purchase a Connacht Christmas Three pass for just €89, which gives you access to the Main Terrace ticket for all three games. That’s less than €30 each for three of our biggest games of the season.

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