HomeRugbyRugby IrishConnacht vs Bristol Champions Cup Preview, Team News and TV details

Connacht vs Bristol Champions Cup Preview, Team News and TV details

Connacht vs Bristol Champions Cup Preview, Team News and TV details.

Match live on TNT Sports 2 from 7:30pm

Connacht Rugby Team News

Tiernan O’Halloran’s Return Boosts Connacht

Connacht Rugby receives a significant boost as full-back Tiernan O’Halloran returns after recovering from a foot injury sustained in early December. His presence is expected to add flair and stability to the backline.

Tactical Shifts by Head Coach Pete Wilkins

Head coach Pete Wilkins implements a substantial reshuffle, making eight changes from the Lyon game. Notable adjustments include the new center partnership of Bundee Aki and David Hawkshaw, providing a fresh dynamic to the team’s attacking strategy.

Commenting ahead of the game, head coach Pete Wilkins says:

“For a lot of reasons tomorrow should be a great occasion. Friday night Champions Cup games at The Sportsground are always special, and there’ll a few old faces making the visit as well. Both teams still have a lot to play for so we can’t wait for it.

I’m delighted that it’s set to be another sell-out as well, because like we saw against Munster the fans can make a huge difference during both the highs and lows of the 80 minutes. Hopefully we can send them home happy again by the end of the night.”

Hanrahan Back at Out-Half, Blade to Captain

JJ Hanrahan returns to the out-half position, bringing experience and playmaking skills. Caolin Blade takes the captain’s armband at scrum-half, leading the team from a crucial position on the field.

Pack Reinforcements with Buckley and Bealham

In the forward pack, Connacht sees the return of props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, providing added strength to the scrum. Tadgh McElroy retains his place at hooker, contributing to the team’s set-piece solidity.

Murray and Joyce Form New Second-Row Pairing

Niall Murray steps in to partner former Bristol player Joe Joyce in the second row, forming a new locking combination. The cohesion between these two players will be pivotal in both set pieces and open play.

Hurley-Langton’s Inclusion Adds Flank Depth

Shamus Hurley-Langton joins the back row at openside flanker, adding depth and versatility to the loose forward trio alongside Cian Prendergast and number 8 Jarrad Butler. Their collective efforts will be crucial in securing possession and disrupting Bristol’s game plan.

Bristol Bears Team News

Lam’s Tactical Adjustments

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam makes five changes following the previous weekend’s defeat to the Bulls. These adjustments aim to address weaknesses and enhance the team’s overall performance against Connacht.

Harding’s Return and Front Row Rejig

Club captain Fitz Harding returns from a foot injury, bolstering the back row. The front row sees the return of Jake Woolmore and Kyle Sinckler, the latter back from an abductor injury. This reshaped forward unit aims to dominate set-piece battles.

Randall’s Milestone Appearance

Harry Randall starts at scrum half, marking his 10th Champions Cup appearance for the club. His experience and leadership from the pivotal scrum-half position will be crucial, especially with the milestone achievement he reaches in this match.

Back Line Adjustments

In the backline, Virimi Vakatawa and Kalaveti Ravouvou join the starting XV, adding pace and flair. Benhard Janse van Rensburg shifts to inside centre, creating a formidable midfield combination that Connacht’s defense must contend with.


Connacht Starting XV

– Full Back: Tiernan O’Halloran
– Wingers: Shayne Bolton, Andrew Smith
– Centers: Bundee Aki, David Hawkshaw
– Out-Half: JJ Hanrahan
– Scrum-Half: Caolin Blade (Captain)
– Props: Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham
– Hooker: Tadgh McElroy
– Second Row: Niall Murray, Joe Joyce
– Back Row: Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Jarrad Butler

Bristol Bears Starting XV

– Full Back: Max Malins
– Wingers: Kalaveti Ravouvou, Gabriel Ibitoye
– Centers: Virimi Vakatawa, Benhard Janse van Rensburg
– Out-Half: AJ MacGinty
– Scrum-Half: Harry Randall
– Props: Jake Woolmore, Kyle Sinckler
– Locks: Josh Caulfield, Joe Batley
– Back Row: Steven Luatua, Fitz Harding (Captain), Magnus Bradbury

Replacements and Unavailable Players

Both teams feature strong replacement benches, showcasing depth and options for impact substitutions. Connacht will be without Mack Hansen, Paul Boyle, and Diarmuid Kilgannon, while Bristol Bears list a few notable names on their unavailable roster.

In summary, this Connacht vs Bristol encounter promises to be a thrilling Champions Cup clash, with key players returning and strategic adjustments made by both teams. The battle in the forward pack, the strategic play of the half-backs, and the flair in the backline will be key focal points in what is sure to be an intense and closely contested match.

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