Scrum half Kieran Marmion is set for his first start since undergoing ankle surgery in November, having been named in the Connacht team to play Conference A rivals Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).
Marmion came off the bench in the province’s 25-17 victory over the Toyota Cheetahs last Saturday, and is back in the starting XV this week, forming a half-back partnership with 21-year-old Academy player Conor Fitzgerald, who takes the place of Jack Carty.
Fitzgerald’s older brother Stephen is set for his second successive start on the right wing. The 23-year-old Limerick man is part of a back-three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back. With Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell on Ireland duty, the starting centres will be Kyle Godwin and Tom Daly.
Hooker Dave Heffernan rejoins Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in the front row, while 21-year-old Sligo native Cillian Gallagher starts in the second row alongside James Cannon. The loose forwards are unchanged with Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a combining with captain Jarrad Butler, the scorer of the match-winning try against the Cheetahs.
Fit-again centre Peter Robb is also a notable inclusion on the replacements bench as he looks to end a long spell on the sidelines with neck and knee injuries. His last senior appearance for Connacht came against Glasgow at the same venue last April.
Ahead of the round 16 trip to Glasgow, head coach Andy Friend said: “It is extremely tight in our conference with only a few points separating four or five teams, so every game takes on an even greater importance now. We have picked a side with a good blend of youth and experience and I have full confidence in them to get a result on Friday night.
“The real positive this week is to see Kieran Marmion back and raring to go after a period of injury. He’s worked really hard over the past few months to regain his fitness and is looking forward to his 150th appearance in a Connacht jersey. It’s a significant milestone and something to be proud of for him and his family.”
CONNACHT (v Glasgow Warriors): Tiernan O’Halloran; Stephen Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Cillian Gallagher, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Peter Robb, Cian Kelleher.