Connacht have been boosted by the return of long-term absentees Gavin Thornbury and Dylan Tierney-Martin for Saturday’s URC trip to Benetton (k/o 12:00 Irish time).
 
Thornbury, who was one of Connacht’s stand-out players in 2020/21, has yet to play this season due to a long-term shoulder injury. Similarly Tierney-Martin has been absent for four months following a hamstring injury in a club game.
 
The pair have both been named among the replacements and will be expected to feature during the game.
 
The coaching team are also able to welcome back Irish internationals Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen, with the pair coming straight into the starting XV. Bealham is joined by Matthew Burke and Dave Heffernan in the front row, while the other change in the pack sees Leva Fifita come in to partner Niall Murray in the second row. The back row sees Paul Boyle start at number 8 alongside flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver.
 
Captain Jack Carty is again alongside Kieran Marmion in the half-backs, while Sammy Arnold comes in at inside-centre to partner Tom Farrell. Hansen is named on the left wing with John Porch on the right wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.
 
Commenting on the team announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“In Finlay, Mack, Dylan and Gavin we’ve got four players returning for different reasons, but their return is a welcome boost at the right time. For Gavin and Dylan in particular they’ve worked incredibly hard to get back to full fitness for this key block of games, supported by our excellent medical team.
 
We fully appreciate the challenges we face in reaching the URC playoffs now, but the best preparation we can have for the Champions Cup games is to go to Italy, put in a performance good enough for a win, and keep ourselves in the hunt for a top 8 finish.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Saturday 2nd April, 12:00 @ Stadio Monigo
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (202)
14. John Porch (53)
13. Tom Farrell (74)
12. Sammy Arnold (34)
11. Mack Hansen (9)
10. Jack Carty (174) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (203)
1. Matthew Burke (35)
2. Dave Heffernan (159)
3. Finlay Bealham (169)
4. Niall Murray (31)
5. Leva Fifita (10)
6. Cian Prendergast (25)
7. Conor Oliver (36)
8. Paul Boyle (71)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (1)
17. Greg McGrath (5)
18. Tietie Tuimauga (8)
19. Gavin Thornbury (58)
20. Abraham Papali’i (21)
21. Caolin Blade (145)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (47)
23. Sean Masterson (16)

Related

Report: Benetton 20-12 Connacht