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Blade Reaches Century Mark For Connacht

Blade Reaches Century Mark For Connacht

Caolin Blade makes a break during Connacht's stirring 23-20 victory over Montpellier at the Sportsground last Sunday afternoon ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade will make his 100th appearance for his home province when they take on Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup at Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday (kick-off 2pm local time/1pm Irish time).

The 25-year-old from Monivea picked up the man-of-the-match award in the opening round win over Montpellier. He will be hoping for a repeat performance as he forms a half-back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald against the reigning Top 14 champions.

Connacht are boosted by the return of Ireland international Quinn Roux who will captain the side in the absence of Jarrad Butler. Roux will line up alongside Ultan Dillane in the second row after the latter came through the Montpellier game unscathed following a recent back injury.

There are two changes to the front row, with Dave Heffernan coming in at hooker and Peter McCabe at loosehead prop. Dominic Robertson-McCoy is retained at tighthead with Finlay Bealham returning on the bench after a two week lay-off with injury.

The versatile Eoghan Masterson comes in at blindside flanker, Colby Fainga’a continues at openside, and Robin Copeland, who had one of his best games for the westerners last Sunday, starting again at number 8.

There are some notable switches in the back-line where the fit-again Matt Healy is stationed at full-back, combining with Kyle Godwin and John Porch in the back-three, and Tom Farrell comes into the midfield alongside Tom Daly.

Speaking ahead of the second round fixture, Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “We were happy with the character shown against Montpellier but we know we will need to improve as we travel away to Toulouse.

“We have seen the quality they have in the past few seasons in this competition and winning the Top 14 in France. However, we’re travelling with a squad that has a huge sense of belief that we can win the game on Saturday.

“We are boosted this week with a number of players returning from injury and the real positive for us is that with a six-day turnaround from the Montpellier game we have players coming in fresh into the squad. Saturday is another challenge for us but one we’re really looking forward to.”

CONNACHT (v Toulouse): Matt Healy; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Kyle Godwin; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.