Grand Slam winners Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion have returned to the Connacht starting XV to face Gloucester in the Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final at the Sportsground (kick-off 1pm).
It is set to be a fitting homecoming for Ireland’s Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion, along with fellow internationals Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane, as the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies will be displayed to the crowd in Galway tomorrow.
The much-anticipated European game will mark a significant milestone for Jack Carty and Dave Heffernan as both are poised to make their 100th appearances for their province. Roscommon man Carty starts at out-half alongside Marmion, while Ballina native Heffernan is named as replacement hooker.
Aki’s return sees him renew his centre partnership with Tom Farrell. The pair are included in a back-line that features an unchanged back-three of Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy. With eight tries so far in the tournament, flying winger Healy has been in incredible form.
Speaking ahead of the clash with the English side, Connacht head coach Kieran Keane said: “We have had a really close look at Gloucester and how they have been playing. I think they have a very similar approach to the game as we do, so it’s going to be a tough game for both sides and both teams will fancy their chances.
“The home advantage will be big for us. Our supporters have been fantastic this season and have made the Sportsground a really difficult place to travel for away teams. I know they will give us another lift again tomorrow and the boys are determined to give them something to shout about.”
CONNACHT (v Gloucester): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.