Connacht Rugby and Sale Sharks have named their starting teams for their European Challenge Cup Quarter Final on Friday night (Kick Off 7:45pm – Live BT Sports 2).
It looks like a second string side for Connacht with many players rested for the final three games of the Pro14 where they need two victories to secure 3rd spot in the table.
Bundee Aki has returns to the Connacht starting team after missing last weeks win over Treviso. Hooker Tom McCartney, makes his 100th appearance and Jack Carty who was sublime when he came on as a sub last week returns to the starting line-up.
In the back three, Darragh Leader is named at full back with Cian Kelleher and Niyi Adeolokun on the wings. Adeolokun makes his first start since November, when he picked up an arm injury against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Aki’s inclusion in the midfield sees him form a partnership with the versatile Kyle Godwin who played at 10 for the last two home matches.
Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says he has picked a side that he feels can progress to a semi-final of the competition; “We said at the start of the season that we wanted to be in the business end of both the Challenge Cup and the Pro14. We face a tough challenge away to Sale in the Quarter Final on Friday night, but this is knock out rugby and we have picked a side to go and win the game”, Friend said.
“I am happy with how the squad has been performing over the past few weeks. We are seeing strong competition for places. There is a real intensity to our training, and we are seeing that in our performances on the pitch. We have played Sale twice this season, with both teams winning a game apiece, so I expect Friday night to be another tight affair”, he added.
Former Connacht player AJ MacGinty returns to the Sale Sharks’ starting fifteen
MacGinty played in five of the club’s first six games, but his only other appearance was at Northampton in February. Sam James reverts to his preferred position of outside centre, in place of the injured James O’Connor.
Josh Beaumont starts at No.8, with skipper Jono Ross and Tom Curry on the flanks. Will Cliff is fit to resume, following his enforced departure against Leicester Tigers three weeks ago and is joined by Scots’ international Josh Strauss on the bench