Matt Healy will make his 100th appearance for Connacht in their final Challenge Cup Pool 5 game against Oyonnax at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-ooff 2:30pm). He has scored eight tries already this season and become Connacht’s record try scorer in Europe.
Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion, Quinn Roux and Bundee Aki, who were all named in Ireland’s opening Six Nations squad during the week, are all included in the province’s starting XV.
Matt Healy’s return on the left wing is the only change to the back-three, with Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back. The latter two both touched down in Connacht’s 24-all draw away to Worcester Warriors last Saturday.
Up front, the only change to last week’s side is the inclusion of Fijian flanker Naulia Dawai. He in joined in the back row by blindside Eoghan Masterson and captain John Muldoon at number 8.
Having secured a quarter-final spot with that battling draw with Worcester at Sixways, a win over Oyonnax will ensure that last-eight fixture will be played in front of a packed Sportsground in the spring.
Speaking ahead of the game, Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan is taking nothing for granted against the French Top 14 side. “We know Oyonnax are a physical outfit, they have serious players, and whatever side they send over, whether frontline or second, they are still registered players, and we have to deal with everything they throw at us,” he said.
“We have a good record at home and we are looking forward to playing in front of a noisy crowd and our guys get a real kick from it – the last game was Ulster and that ended positively, and before that Brive, which was a polished performance and we expect that again on Saturday. Certainly, we are going to go at it from the start.”
CONNACHT (v Oyonnax): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion; Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, James Connolly, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher.