Ireland internationals Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are both named in the Connacht squad to face Leinster at the Sportsground in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 derby (kick-off 7.35pm).
Carty comes straight back into the side at out-half while Aki is named among the replacements for the first interprovincial clash of the season. Click here to buy your match ticket(s) online.
Carty plays his first game since Ireland’s pool win over Russia at the Rugby World Cup, and he forms a half-back partnership with Caolin Blade. Powerful centre Peter Robb is retained after his recent outstanding performances and will be partnered by Tom Farrell.
Elsewhere in the back-line, Limerick man Stephen Fitzgerald comes in on the left wing with Darragh Leader at full-back and the in-form Niyi Adeolokun, who is chasing his third try in as many games, on the opposite wing.
Up front, there is a highly-experienced front row with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham filling the loosehead and tighthead spots respectively and Tom McCartney named at hooker.
Sligo native Cillian Gallagher comes in for his first start of the season alongside fellow lock Joe Maksymiw. The rovince’s back row has a familiar look to it with flankers Eoghan Masterson and Jarrad Butler, the captain, lining up alongside Paul Boyle at number 8.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “We are happy with the start we have made in the PRO14 with four wins in a row. What is even more satisfying is the depth we have already displayed, with 35 players already used in the opening five games.
“With Jack, Bundee and Sean O’Brien all coming back in this week, that number will hopefully go to 38. We obviously face another huge challenge this weekend against Leinster.
“But our challenge is to just maintain the consistency we have seen over the past few weeks both at home and away. We take huge pride in our home record, with just one loss in thirteen games, and we expect a massive crowd again on Friday night.”
CONNACHT (v Leinster): Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Stephen Fitzgerald; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Cillian Gallagher, Joe Maksymiw, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin.