Connacht head coach Andy Friend has recalled a host of Irish internationals for tomorrow’s crucial Heineken Champions Cup clash with Toulouse at the Sportsground (k/o 3.15pm).
Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are named at out-half and outside-centre respectively after sitting out the last two weeks, while there are also returns to the starting team for fellow internationals Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy.
There’s further good news in the back-row where Jarrad Butler and Colby Fainga’a have both recovered from injury, with Butler captaining the side at number 8 and Fainga’a joined by Paul Boyle on the flanks.
Ultan Dillane will be partnered by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, while Paddy McAllister and Tom McCartney join Bealham in the front row to complete the pack.
Scrum-half Stephen Kerins is handed his first Champions Cup start, with Caolin Blade among the replacements having started the last nine games for Connacht.
Bundee Aki is partnered by Peter Robb in the centre, while Matt Healy is joined by winger Niyi Adeolokun and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran in the back three.
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Andy Friend says:

“It’s been a difficult Christmas period for everyone, but we’ve a lot of returning players which is exactly what we need. With our captain Jarrad Butler back in the side and players like Jack and Bundee returning from their break, I believe this is a squad full of quality and experience that can win this game.”
Regarding tomorrow’s opponents, Friend added:

“This game is exactly what we need. We’ve got a great opportunity to come up against the French champions and challenge them in our own backyard. We know it’s a must-win tie to keep our quarter-final hopes alive, and with our home crowd behind us I know the players will relish the occasion.”
15-9: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Stephen Kerins.
1-8: Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C).
Replacements: David Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, John Porch.

Connacht’s final home game of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup is almost upon us, and it’s set to be another memorable European affair.

Not for the first time, French Top 14 champions Toulouse visit The Sportsground as the two sides continue their rivalry on Europe’s biggest stage.

It’s win-or-bust for Connacht in the competition, so here’s all you need to know about the tie.
When’s the game?

Kick-off is at 3.15pm this Saturday 11th January at The Sportsground.
What’s the state of play so far?

Long story short, only a win will do if Connacht are to keep their hopes of a first qualification into the Champions Cup quarter-finals alive.

With Toulouse already nearly assured of top spot, Connacht are one of a number of teams aiming for one of the three best runners-up spots that would send them into the last 8 with the five pool winners.

One of those spots is likely to be filled by Ulster (17 points) or Clermont (16) in Pool 3, while in Pool 4 Munster (11) and Saracens (10) will be hoping to join them if they’re unable to catch Racing 92.

Second place in Pools 1 and 2 are filled by Northampton and Glasgow who are both on 9 points. With Connacht on 8 points there is work to be done, but a bonus-point win on Saturday would ensure a grandstand finish ahead of next weekend’s trip to an already eliminated Montpellier.
How’s our recent record against them?

Connacht have played Toulouse more than any other team in the Heineken Champions Cup, with Saturday’s game the eight time the two sides have met in Europe’s premiere competition.

The Western province have won two of those previous meetings. The first was that famous win in the Stade Ernest-Wallon in December 2013, and Connacht then repeated the feat in the opening game of the 2016/17 competition.

Toulouse were 32-17 victors when the sides met in November, so Andy Friend’s side will be looking to return the favour this weekend.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht squad for the game will be announced on all our channels and website shortly before midday this Friday.
Are tickets still available?

Yes tickets are available in both the Bohermore and College Road Ends, with all other parts of the ground now sold out. Due to the importance of the fixture, the opponents and the kick-off time we are expecting another massive crowd, so the sooner you secure your spot the better.
What if I can’t make the game?

The game will be shown live on BT Sport 3 with radio commentary on Galway Bay FM. As with all our Heineken Champions Cup games it will not be shown on free-to-air TV, so the best way to experience it is at the ground.
How can I get there?

There is plenty of car parks within walking distance to The Sportsground, all of which are listed below. Please note that local restrictions will be in place so please respect our neighbours at all times.

Anything else I should know?

🗓 The official Connacht Rugby 2020 calendar will be on sale in reception, the Heineken Rugby Clubhouse and the Clan Bar. The calendar costs just €10 and this is your last chance to pick one up.
🚪 Gates open from 1.45pm.
❌ No smoking is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.


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