Connacht rugby fans will be hoping for another good performance as they host Ulster on Friday. Kick off 7:35pm
Lock Quinn Roux and flanker Sean O’Brien have returned to the Connacht starting team for the interprovincial clash at home to Ulster in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm). They are among four changes to the side which lost narrowly to Leinster in the RDS last weekend with hooker Shane Delahunt and tight head Conor Carey also named in the starting XV.
Carey and Delahunt come into a front row that also includes loosehead Denis Buckley while Roux partners Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
In the back-row O’Brien comes in at blindside with Captain Jarrad Butler reverting to the number 8 jersey.
Man of the Match in the Leinster game Jack Carty, continues his half back pairing with Caolin Blade. In the back three, Darragh Leader starts again at full back with Kyle Godwin, who was a late replacement for the Leinster game and Cian Kelleher retained on the wings.
Stephen Fitzgerald who joined Connacht on loan move this week, takes his place among the replacements.
Speaking ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are fully aware of the challenge that an in form Ulster side will present “These interpro fixtures are massive occasions and when they take place over the Christmas period, they bring that increased level of excitement. We know there will be a big home crowd in the Sporstground and we will need to be up for the occasion with Ulster coming to town. This block of fixtures is hugely important in the context of our season, but we are not looking beyond Ulster on Friday evening.”
Commenting on his team selection he added: “Quinn Roux and Sean O’Brien are fit and ready to go and they come back into the side. They have been two of our top performers this season, so they will give us increased options. In the front row we also have Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey coming in. These are two other players who have been going really well over the past few weeks. We have some real depth in these positions so it is great for us as coaches to have these options and to bring in fresh legs and know that they are ready to go. Ulster are coming off the back of a great win over Munster and I’m sure they will come to the Sportsground full of confidence.”
Ulster Head Coach Dan McFarland has made just four changes to the starting XV that defeated Munster in the first of three successive inter-pro derbies last weekend.
Three of the changes are in the backline as Johnny McPhillips, Angus Kernohan and Darren Cave are all handed starting berths. McPhillips comes in to partner John Cooney at half-back, with Cave joining Will Addison in the Ulster midfield. Kernohan starts on the left wing opposite Henry Speight, who will be making his final Ulster appearance before returning to Australia. Louis Ludik completes the back three.
Nick Timoney is the final change, as he is drafted in to make up a powerful back row with Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee. The front five remains unchanged with Rob Herring captaining the side from hooker. Abbey Insurance Academy prop Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore pack down either side of Herring, with Ian Nagle and Kieran Treadwell once again named in the engine room.
Prop Tommy O’Hagan is set to earn his first Ulster cap if called upon from the bench. Adam McBurney, Ross Kane, Clive Ross and Greg Jones are the additional forward options, with David Shanahan, Peter Nelson and Stuart McCloskey providing the backline cover.
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Stephen Fitzgerald.
(15-9): L Ludik; H Speight, W Addison, D Cave, A Kernohan; J McPhillips, J Cooney;
(1-8): E O’Sullivan, R Herring (captain), M Moore, I Nagle, K Treadwell, N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee;
Replacements (16-23): A McBurney, T O’Hagan, R Kane, C Ross, G Jones, D Shanahan, P Nelson, S McCloskey