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Connacht Begin Long Block Of Games Without O’Halloran And McAllister

Connacht Begin Long Block Of Games Without O’Halloran And McAllister

Galway man Tiernan O'Halloran chases his own kick during Connacht's second round encounter with Benetton Rugby at the Sportsground earlier this month ©INPHO/James Crombie

For Saturday’s mouth-watering GUINNESS PRO14 clash with the Toyota Cheetahs at the Sportsground (kick-off 5.15pm), Connacht head coach Andy Friend has made four changes to the team that recorded a 38-14 bonus point win over Dragons two weeks ago.

With Tiernan O’Halloran (fractured fibula/syndesmosis) and Paddy McAllister (knee) out of action until December, Connacht have had to reshuffle slightly but Darragh Leader returns from a leg injury to take his place on the bench.

Stephen Fitzgerald replaces the injured O’Halloran at full-back, forming a new-look back-three with Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch. Fitzgerald’s brother Conor is retained at out-half following his impressive start to the season, with Kieran Marmion joining him at half-back.

Kyle Godwin and Peter Robb continue their centre partnership, while loosehead Denis Buckley comes back into the side for his first start of the season, featuring in the front row alongside Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham.

The province’s second row sees Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux paired together for the fourth straight game, and the back row also has a familiar look to it with captain Jarrad Butler combining with fellow flanker Eoghan Masterson and number 8 Paul Boyle.

The Cheetahs’ eye-catching early season form has made many sit up and take notice, and Australian Friend is relishing their fourth round visit to Galway for their first away trip of the campaign.

“The Cheetahs have been impressive in their opening three games and have three bonus points on the board, so we will have to be at our best against them,” he said.

“But we have a had a really good start to the season as well, with two wins from our opening three games, so fans can expect an exciting game on Saturday evening.

“Unfortunately we have to plan without Tiernan and Paddy until December but I’ve always said that this block of thirteen games in a row was going to require real depth in our squad. We have picked a matchday 23 targeting a home win.”

Saturday’s game promises to be a very entertaining affair, with the Cheetahs looking to extend their lead at the top of Conference A and Connacht aiming for three victories on the bounce. Click here to buy your tickets.

CONNACHT (v Toyota Cheetahs): Stephen Fitzgerald; Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, John Porch; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader.