Connacht full-back, Tiernan O’Halloran, has been named in Andy Friend’s side to face Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup tomorrow.
The 27-year-old has recovered from the leg injury that saw him miss all of the interprovincial derbies over the Christmas period and will feature in the back line alongside Cian Kelleher and Matt Healy.
Following his contract extension earlier this week, Jack Carty continues at out-half where he is partnered by former Sale Sharks player James Mitchell.
There is a new midfield pairing for the province in the form of Bundee Aki and Kyle Goodwin.
Having missed last week’s clash with Munster through illness, Denis Buckley is finally ready to make his 150th appearance for the province when he features in the front row alongside Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham.
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.
‼️ TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT ‼️
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) January 11, 2019
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.
Kick off in the Sportsground tomorrow is 3pm.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, James Mitchell; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, Darragh Leade.