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Six Changes For Connacht

Six Changes For Connacht

The Connacht team to take on Ulster in the final round of the GUINNESS PRO12 for 2014 has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made six changes to the side that lost to Leinster last week.

Darragh Leader, the sole squad member to have been involved in every game so far this season, starts at full-back. In the absence of Ireland international Robbie Henshaw, who is rested this week as part of the IRFU player welfare programme, Bundee Aki shifts to outside centre to allow November Player of the Month Dave McSharry fill the inside centre berth.

After making three PRO12 appearances from the bench, on-loan scrum half John Cooney gets his first start in Connacht colours, partnering Jack Carty at half-back.

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Up front, the props are rotated with Ronan Loughney and Finlay Bealham starting this week with Tom McCartney at hooker.

Willie Faloon is named at openside flanker in a back row that also contains captain John Muldoon and George Naoupu, the scorer of Connacht’s try against Leinster.

The most notable inclusion among the replacements is Academy forward Eoghan Masterson (pictured below). The 21-year-old Portlaoise man started six league games for the province last season. He is joined on the bench by Academy lock Ultan Dillane who made his Connacht debut at the RDS last weekend.

Commenting on the team selection for Friday’s Belfast encounter, Pat Lam said: “We always knew we would be without Robbie (Henshaw) for this game and would have to manage the other Ireland guys as well. This being a crucial period of games and with a number of injuries, we’ve made some changes to the starting team.

“It’s great for John (Cooney), Finlay (Bealham) and Dave (McSharry) to have the opportunity to start in such a big game.

“Eoghan Masterson’s growth in the Academy this season has been exceptional and I’m pleased to give him his first involvement of the season with the senior team after leading and playing well for the Eagles.

“We had a good session today (Wednesday) and will regroup on Friday for the long trip to Belfast. We’ve identified that it is going to be a high-pressure environment at a sold-out Kingspan stadium and that we need to manage that by staying focused on our roles individually and as a team.

“We know that history is against us winning there on Friday night, but we have a lot of belief in ourselves to get the job done and regain some momentum for our goal of a top six finish in the league.”
CONNACHT (v Ulster): Darragh Leader; Danie Poolman, Bundee Aki, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, John Cooney; Ronan Loughney, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Craig Ronaldson, Mils Muliaina.