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Blade Chosen To Lead Connacht Against Sale

Blade Chosen To Lead Connacht Against Sale

Scrum half Caolin Blade will captain Connacht for the first time when the westerners take on Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

With Jack Carty rested after playing seven games in a row, Caolin Blade will form a half-back partnership with 21-year-old Academy player Conor Fitzgerald who made his debut off the bench against Bordeaux-Bègles last weekend.

Connemara youngster Colm de Buitléar (20) is named on the left wing in what will also be his first competitive start for his province. The back-line is boosted by the return of centre Tom Farrell who forms a midfield partnership with the versatile Kyle Godwin, who scored two tries from the wing in a man-of-the-match performance in the opening round.
Tiernan O’Halloran returns from injury to take his place at full-back, with Niyi Adeolokun completing the back-three. In the forwards, the experienced Denis Buckley comes back in at loosehead prop alongside hooker Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey at tighthead. Behind them will be Ireland international Ultan Dillane and James Cannon.
Former Ireland Under-20 captain Paul Boyle, who has made a strong start to the season, moves to blindside flanker while openside Colby Fainga’a and the Ireland-capped Robin Copeland, at number 8, are both retained. Regular captain Jarrad Butler is rested this week.
Two more players are in line to make their Connacht debuts off the bench – Academy prop Matthew Burke and summer arrival David Horwitz who played for Connacht Eagles last Sunday following injury. Former Sale player James Mitchell is also included among the replacements.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend feels he has picked the right blend of youth and experience to challenge the English club, saying: “Sale are an impressive side and they are top of the pool after the bonus point win away to Perpignan. We have picked a strong side. We have a few new players coming in who are there on merit and then we have a few more experienced guys coming back from injury.

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“We have picked a side that we think can win the game and that is our intention going over to Sale. With ourselves and Sale both winning in the opening round, this game will have a big say in the final pool standings.”
CONNACHT (v Sale Sharks): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Kyle Godwin, Colm de Buitléar; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (capt); Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Conan O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Eoin Griffin.