Big Names Return As Connacht Face Leinster

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made 10 changes as Connacht take on Leinster in the RDS on Saturday.

Included in the starting side are internationals Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane as Bundee Aki is named among the replacements.

Bealham comes back into a front row that sees Denis Buckley returning at loosehead and Tom McCartney retained at hooker. In the second row Dillane will line up alongside Gavin Thornbury with James Cannon named among the replacements.

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“We have gone through a really good run with five wins in row” explained Connacht head coach Andy Friend.

“With real competition emerging in the squad. The win away in France last weekend keeps the confidence levels up and keeps that momentum going in the squad and throughout the organisation”.

“We face a big challenge away to Leinster on Saturday. We know the depth they have and the quality in their squad so we will need a huge performance to challenge them especially when they are at home” said Friend.

Captain Jarrad Butler comes back into the side at blindside alongside Colby Fainga’a and Paul Boyle at number 8.

Jack Carty and Caolin Blade renew their half-back partnership, while the back three sees Darragh Leader come in for Matt Healy who picked up a knock in training during the week, with Cian Kelleher named on the opposite wing with Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

“Everyone wants to play against the top sides and see how they perform” explained Friend. “We will play our game and implement our game plan and we will know where we are as we go into the new year”.

“We have a huge series of games, with three interpros over the Christmas and New Year period so these three fixtures will be a huge test for our squad”.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Bundee Aki.