Forwards Jarrad Butler and Denis Buckley have returned to the Connacht team to face Benetton Rugby in Treviso on Saturday (kick-off 1pm local time/12pm Irish time). Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed the game against Zebre last week with a short-term injury, is also back in the starting XV.
Having come through a full 80 minutes last weekend, flanker Sean O’Brien is named at blindside in an experienced back row that includes the fit-again Jarrad Butler and veteran captain John Muldoon.
Jack Carty is selected at out-half where he will form a half-back pairing with Caolin Blade. The westerners are also boosted by the return of Niyi Adeolokun from Injury and Ultan Dillane from international duty, with both players named among the replacements. Dillane will return to Ireland camp after the clash in Italy.
The GUINNESS PRO14 round 16 encounter with Benetton on Saturday will form the first leg of a tour for Connacht which will take mostly the same personnel on to Bloemfontein in South Africa to play the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday week (March 3).
Speaking ahead of the two away fixtures, Connacht head coach Kieran Keane emphasised the importance of having depth in the squad, stating: “We have a number of players coming back from injury which will be a big boost against Treviso on Saturday. They are on a great run of wins and I’m sure they will be targeting us especially when they have been so competitive at home this season.
“The majority of the squad will travel on to South Africa, but we have put plans in place for replacements to join the squad after the game in Italy. These two games will really test the depth of our squad and we will need to be at our best if we want to win them.”
CONNACHT v Benetton Rugby): Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.