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50th Cap For Connacht Lock Kearney

50th Cap For Connacht Lock Kearney

Head coach Pat Lam has named an unchanged Connacht side for the fourth game in-a-row with the team traveling to take on Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday (kick-off 7.05pm).

Michael Kearney will earn his 50th Connacht cap at the age of 23, starting in the second row with Aly Muldowney.

The only change on the bench comes in the forwards with Academy prop Finlay Bealham replacing the injured Nathan White.

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Connacht’s longest-serving player, Michael Swift, is in line to make his 180th league appearance off the bench.

Commenting on the team selection and the interprovincial derby, head coach Pat Lam said: “When you consider the frontliners we’ve been missing these last few months – (Brett) Wilkinson, (Sean) Henry, (Nathan) White, (Craig) Clarke, (Willie) Faloon and (Jake) Heenan – the guys who have played in the last five games have put in an outstanding effort.

“The performances have shown that, and so we go up to Belfast with the same group of guys.

“Willie Faloon made an impressive return from injury and we were planning to give him a start this week but he pulled up with a tight hamstring in the last training run yesterday.

“It’s unfortunate but we don’t want to risk him so soon after his return. We’ll hopefully see him next week at the Sportsground.

“Young Eoghan Masterson from the Academy will get his sixth start at openside where he is playing out of position but showing time and time again his ability to adapt and slot into an experienced back row.

“Nathan White also pulled up with a calf injury so we’re traveling with Finlay (Bealham) this week who has impressed in training and the two games he’s been called upon for.

“Ulster have, of course, suffered some injuries to their frontliners as well but they have such strength in depth with the option to replace one international with another and we don’t anticipate any dip in performance.

“They are a well-coached side and last week they put in a magnificent effort against Saracens with 14 men for 75 minutes.

“But what that performance showed is the quality they have and the team spirit they possess. No doubt it has been a hard week for them but we are under no illusions.

“We expect them to come out even stronger with the passionate Ravenhill crowd behind them.

“We haven’t won at Ravenhill in 54 year so this is our chance to make history. We know it’s going to take a massive team effort on Friday but it’s exciting. This is what we play rugby for, to go up against it and beat the odds.”

CONNACHT (v Ulster): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Fionn Carr; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: David Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Darragh Leader.