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MacGinty To Make First PRO12 Start

MacGinty To Make First PRO12 Start

The Connacht team to face Munster in their first interprovincial clash of the season at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm) has been named. Head coach Pat Lam has made nine personnel changes to the team that started against Brive in the European Challenge Cup.

USA international out-half AJ MacGinty is named in the number 10 shirt for his first PRO12 start. The 25-year-old is joined at half-back by Ireland international Kieran Marmion, who this week signed a new two-year deal with the province.

Matt Healy returns from injury to take his place on the left wing, while Galway man Tiernan O’Halloran is named on the right wing in a shift that sees Robbie Henshaw start at full-back for the second time this season. Craig Ronaldson is promoted from the bench to line out in the centre with the only player to have started every game this season, Bundee Aki.

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In the pack, only two players, Nathan White and Eoghan Masterson, are retained from last week. Denis Buckley and Academy hooker Shane Delahunt make up the front row with White, while Ultan Dillane and Aly Muldowney start together in the second row for the second time this season.

John Muldoon returns to captain the side in a back row with Masterson at number 8 and Academy flanker James Connolly who will make his PRO12 debut in Limerick, having made four European appearances to date.

Academy and former Ireland Under-20 back rower Sean O’Brien is named among the replacements. He made his Connacht debut in Russia earlier this month but Saturday would represent a first PRO12 appearance for the 20-year-old from Galway.

Commenting on the team selection and the trip to Limerick, head coach Pat Lam said: “Injuries withstanding, we’ve picked this team based on the weather expected on Saturday as well as the game-plan we have in place to try and deal with Munster’s strengths.

“We have a long list of casualties but as I’ve said before, it’s up to the next guy to come in and do the job and I’m really pleased with the way players, especially the younger guys, have stepped up so far this season. The amount of youth coming through in this side is exciting with 13 of our matchday squad graduates or current members of the Connacht Academy.

“We are under no illusion as to the task at hand this weekend. Axel (Anthony Foley) has done a great job moulding and building a tough and resilient Munster side over the last two years. Our team work and work ethic on and off the ball will need to be at its best to give us a chance to get the four points on offer.”

Connacht’s list of players who are currently injured or unavailable includes Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, JP Cooney, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Andrew Browne, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon, John Cooney, Fionn Carr, Danie Poolman, Dave McSharry, Api Pewhairangi and Conor Finn.

CONNACHT (v Munster): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, George Naoupu, Sean O’Brien, Ian Porter, Jack Carty, Darragh Leader.