Connacht v Sale Sharks
European Challenge Cup, Pool 3, Round 5
The Sportsground, Galway @3:00pm, Saturday 12th January 2019
This European Challenge Cup round 5 clash looks set to decide the winner of Pool 3 as leaders Sale visit the Sportsground on Saturday afternoon. Sale (16pts) have a three-point cushion over 2nd placed Connacht (13pts), however, a win for the home side would put them in pole position ahead of a trip to Bordeaux in round 6.
Connacht come into this game on the back of a home defeat to Munster last weekend. However, despite the loss, they performed admirably against a strong opposition and Andy Friends men were missing some key players themselves. Friend names a much changed Connacht side and has made eleven changes to the starting team for this weekends clash.
Connacht fans will be happy to see full back Tiernan O’Halloran, who has recovered from a leg injury. Dennis Buckley, who was due make his 150th appearance last week against Munster before being ruled out just prior to the game due to illness, is set the reach that milestone against Sale.
Bundee Aki and Kyle Godwin both come into the side to form a new centre pairing. Tom McCartney comes into the side at hooker and there is a new second-row partnership which sees Ultan Dillane line up alongside James Cannon. Eoghan Masterson is the only member of the back row retained for this weeks clash as James Connolly and captain Jarrad Butler return to the side. James Mitchell gets a rare start at scrum-half alongside Jack Carty who just signed a new two-year contract during the week. Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher are retained on the wings.
Sale Sharks come into this game in good spirits on the back of an impressive 24-18 win over Saracens last Friday night. Twelve of that side are retained for the trip to Galway by Sale coach Steve Diamond. The three personnel changes see Bryn Evans come in at no.4 instead of Josh Beaumont, Kieran Wilkinson is chosen ahead of Robert du Preez at outhalf and Byron McGuigan makes way for Aaron Reed on the wing.