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O’Leary And Cooney At Half-Back For Connacht

O’Leary And Cooney At Half-Back For Connacht

Ahead of Connacht’s trip to Kingspan Stadium this week, Pat Lam has made seven personnel changes to the team that defeated Leinster five days ago.

In the absence of Tiernan O’Halloran, who suffered a quad injury in training this week, Robbie Henshaw will line out at full-back with the centre partnership of Bundee Aki and the Academy’s Peter Robb retained.

Shane O’Leary is handed the reins at out-half for his first PRO12 start, while scrum half John Cooney – on his return from injury – takes over from Kieran Marmion who is also sidelined this week with a minor quad injury.

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Up front, Rodney Ah You comes in for the injured Nathan White and Andrew Browne forms a new second row partnership with Aly Muldowney. Captain John Muldoon shifts to blindside flanker in a back row with Academy player James Connolly and last week’s man-of-the-match, Eoin McKeon.

Ireland international Ultan Dillane will be on bench duty for his first Connacht game since his involvement in the Six Nations. Also included among the replacements is utility back Cormac Brennan from year 1 of the Connacht Academy. This is the first matchday involvement for the 21-year-old who plays his club rugby with Galwegians.

Commenting on the team selection and Friday’s derby clash with Ulster (kick-off 7.35pm), head coach Pat Lam said: “Our squad depth is strong in all positions except 10 and 15 so to lose AJ (MacGinty) to injury, have Shane go down with sickness at the start of a short week and then have Tiernan and Kieran drop out with injuries at kicking practise, it is a challenge to say the least.

“However, once again I believe it is an opportunity for us to strengthen our resolve and continue to rely on our team systems and work ethic. 

“History and the short turnaround is certainly against us for the massive physical challenge that awaits us from Ulster, but we go there knowing that focusing on the quality of our team performance will give us the best chance of getting the points on offer.”

CONNACHT (v Ulster): Robbie Henshaw; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Shane O’Leary, John Cooney; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), James Connolly, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Cormac Brennan, Danie Poolman.