Connacht make four changes for Munster clash

Connacht have made four changes to their starting XV for their Guinness PRO14 clash against Munster at The Sportsground tomorrow (Saturday), kick-off 7.35pm.

Last weekend, Connacht claimed a historic win over Leinster at the RDS Arena, with Athlone native Jack Carty inspiring the westerners with a tally of 25 points.

And ahead of the clash with Munster, Andy Friend’s side has been further boosted by the return of a number of internationals and others after injury absences.

The first change comes in the front row where Finlay Bealham of Buccaneers is restored to tighthead prop. Bealham lines out alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.

After coming off the bench last week, Ultan Dillane now comes into the starting side where he partners Quinn Roux in the second row.

The pack is completed by Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson (Buccaneers), and Sean O’Brien who has recovered from injury which has kept him out for the last six weeks.

Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre after brilliant performances last weekend.

The final change comes in the back three where Ben O’Donnell comes in for his first start in a Connacht jersey – forming an exciting trio with Alex Wootton and John Porch.

Looking ahead to the game against Munster, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “Last week’s win was a testament to the belief and determination that was still present in our squad despite a challenging few weeks. Now it’s all about backing that up and finding another win that will bring us right into contention for a Guinness PRO14 final spot.

“We’ve had a very positive week with no new Covid cases and a few players available to us again, but we will still have to be at our best to overcome a Munster side that is full of quality.”

For his part, Munster head coach Johann van Graan has made a number of changes from the starting team which lost narrowly to Ulster last time out.

In the front row, James Cronin returns to the side and is set to make his 100th PRO14 appearance against Connacht on Saturday.

Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan renew their half-back partnership in a team captained by Peter O’Mahony.

Meanwhile, Robbie Henshaw returns to the Leinster team at inside centre for their PRO14 meeting with Ulster in the RDS Arena tonight (Friday), KO 7.35pm.

Henshaw will be partnered by Ross Byrne, who will be starting in the number 13 jersey for the first time in his Leinster senior career.

It’s a strong Leinster team which contains 14 Irish internationals and one Australian international (Scott Fardy), for the top of Conference A clash.

Connacht team (v Munster)

(The Sportsground, Saturday, January 9)

15. John Porch (28 caps)

14. Ben O’Donnell (1)

13. Sammy Arnold (11)

12. Tom Daly (35)

11. Alex Wootton (10)

10. Jack Carty (148)

9. Caolin Blade (119)

1. Denis Buckley (189)

2. Shane Delahunt (87)

3. Finlay Bealham (147)

4. Ultan Dillane (105)

5. Quinn Roux (105) (C)

6. Sean O’Brien (58)

7. Conor Oliver (11)

8. Sean Masterson (8).

Replacements

16. Dave Heffernan (135

17. Matthew Burke (17)

18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (59)

19. Gavin Thornbury (47)

20. Paul Boyle (47)

21. Kieran Marmion (173)

22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)

23. Peter Sullivan (6)

Munster team v Connacht

15. Mike Haley

14. Keith Earls

13. Chris Farrell

12. Damian de Allende

11. Shane Daly

10. JJ Hanrahan

9. Conor Murray

1. James Cronin

2. Kevin O’Byrne

3. Stephen Archer

4. Jean Kleyn,

5.Tadhg Beirne

6. Gavin Coombes

7. Peter O’Mahony (captain)

8. CJ Stander.

Replacements

Niall Scannell

Josh Wycherley

Keynan Knox

Fineen Wycherley

Billy Holland

Nick McCarthy

Ben Healy

Rory Scannell.

Leinster team v Ulster

(RDS Arena, Friday, January 8)

15. Hugo Keenan (22 caps)

14. Jordan Larmour (52)

13. Ross Byrne (93)

12. Robbie Henshaw (51)

11. Dave Kearney (157)

10. Johnny Sexton (169), captain

9. Jamison Gibson-Park (97)

1. Cian Healy (224)

2. Seán Cronin (188)

3. Andrew Porter (69)

4. Scott Fardy (67)

5. James Ryan (43)

6. Rhys Ruddock (182)

7. Josh van der Flier (87)

8. Caelan Doris (35).

Replacements

16. James Tracy (119)

17. Ed Byrne (60)

18. Michael Bent (150)

19. Ross Molony (104)

20. Jack Conan (96)

21. Luke McGrath (137)

22. Harry Byrne (17)

23. Jimmy O'Brien (27).

Ulster team v Leinster

15. Michael Lowry

14. Matt Faddes

13. James Hume

12. Stuart McCloskey

11. Ethan McIlroy

10. Billy Burns

9. John Cooney

1. Andrew Warwick

2. Rob Herring

3. Marty Moore

4. Alan O’Connor

5. Sam Carter (captain)

6. Greg Jones

7. Jordi Murphy

8. Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements

John Andrew

Eric O’Sullivan

Tom O’Toole

Kieran Treadwell

Nick Timoney

David Shanahan

Ian Madigan

Ben Moxham.

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