Connacht have been boosted by the return of Ultan Dillane, Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion for their crunch GUINNESS PRO14 clash with Benetton Rugby at the Sportsground on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm).
The return of the Ireland trio is a welcome boost to Connacht’s matchday squad as they face the in-form Italian side who have already registered ten wins this season and sit in second place in the Conference B table.
Carty and Marmion will start on the replacements bench, as Kyle Godwin, who impressed at number 10 last time out against the Ospreys, and Caolin Blade get the nod at half-back. Tom Farrell and Peter Robb continue together in the centre, with Darragh Leader joining Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy in the back-three.
James Cannon replaces Quinn Roux in the third and final change, combining with Dillane in the second row. Gavin Thornbury returns from a shoulder injury as the lock option on the bench, while there is a familiar look to both the front row and the back row with captain Jarrad Butler set for his 18th start of the current campaign.
Anticipating a big challenge from Benetton, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “They have been great all year. I’m not surprised they’re sitting in second spot. They’re playing a physical yet attractive brand of rugby. They’ve got a lot of quality players, so we are preparing for a top side coming to the Sportsground.
“We are in a similar situation, they are sitting second in their conference and we are third in ours so both teams will be looking for a win. We said at the start of the year we wanted to be there at the business end and we’re there or thereabouts.
“But we need to keep winning to make sure we control our destiny. If we keep winning we stay in control. If we don’t, then we have to start looking at points and seeing where we can scrounge some. At this stage it’s just about the win.”
A very small number of Connacht v Benetton tickets remain available in the Main Stand, while tickets are also on sale in the Grant Thornton Stand and the Bohermore Terrace. The cheapest tickets can be bought online here.
CONNACHT (v Benetton Rugby): Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Kyle Godwin, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Stephen Fitzgerald.