Quinn Roux and Sean O’Brien have returned to Connacht’s starting pack for their GUINNESS PRO14 round 12 derby clash with Ulster at the Sportsground on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm).
Ireland international Quinn Roux and promising 24-year-old back row Sean O’Brien are among four changes to the side that lost narrowly to Leinster in Dublin, with front rowers Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey also named in the starting XV.
Loosehead Denis Buckley is joined by Delahunt and Carey in the first line of the westerners’ pack, while Roux partners Gavin Thornbury in the second row, and O’Brien comes in at blindside flanker with captain Jarrad Butler reverting to the number 8 position.
Jack Carty, the man-of-the-match against Leinster, continues at half-back alongside Caolin Blade. With Tiernan O’Halloran still sidelined, Darragh Leader starts again at full-back with Kyle Godwin, who was a late inclusion last time out, and Cian Kelleher retained on the wings.
Limerick native and former Ireland Under-20 international Stephen Fitzgerald, who has joined Connacht from Munster in a three-month loan deal this week, takes his place among the replacements. Fitzgerald’s younger brother Conor, a member of the Connacht Academy this season, made his senior debut in October.
Speaking ahead of his side’s second derby match of the festive period, head coach Andy Friend said: “These interpro fixtures are massive occasions and when they take place over the Christmas period, they bring that increased level of excitement.
“We know there will be a big home crowd in the Sportsground and we’ll need to be up for the occasion with Ulster coming to town. This block of fixtures is hugely important in the context of our season, but we’re not looking beyond Ulster on Friday evening.
“Quinn and Sean are fit and ready to go and they come back into the side. They have been two of our top performers this season, so they will give us increased options. In the front row we also have Shane and Conor coming in. These are two other players who have been going really well over the past few weeks.
“We have some real depth in these positions so it’s great for us, as coaches, to have these options and to bring in fresh legs and know that they are ready to go. Ulster are coming off the back of a great win over Munster and I’m sure they will come to the Sportsground full of confidence.”
The Connacht v Ulster match is likely to be a sell-out, so supporters are advised to purchase the last remaining tickets today by clicking here. There are tickets available for the Bohermore Terrace, priced between 10 and 27.50 euro.
CONNACHT (v Ulster): Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Stephen Fitzgerald.