Connacht are back in PRO14 action this weekend following their exit for the Heineken Challenge Cup at the hands of Sale Sharks, and head coach, Andy Friend, has named a strong team to face Zebre.
Jack Carty has recovered from the arm injury that forced him off the field during last week’s 20-10 loss in the AJ Bell Stadium and takes his place in the half-backs alongside Caolin Blade. In the midfield, Peter Robb comes in for his third start of the season alongside the impressive Tom Farrell.
In the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back with Matt Healy and Darragh Leader on the wings.
Meanwhile, captain Jarrad Butler is among the forwards to be recalled and he is named at number 8 with Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Ireland international lock Ultan Dillane comes back into the second row alongside Gavin Thornbury, while in the front row, props Denis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy are selected alongside hooker Dave Heffernan.
Friend insists that a win this weekend is vital if Connacht are to compete for a PRO14 play-off spot.
“We have picked a strong side and a side capable of going to Zebre and winning the game. We are fully aware of the dangers that Zebre can present, particularly when they are at home.
“There are a number of our boys who were not involved in Europe last weekend, so they are coming back in fresh after that break and that brings more energy to the group”, Friend said.
Kick off on Saturday in the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi is 5.30pm Irish time.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conan O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, Robin Copeland, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Cian Kelleher.