Ireland international Quinn Roux will captain Connacht for their opening GUINNESS PRO14 festive derby against Munster at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm). Match tickets are available to buy online here.
With just one point separating the two provincial rivals at the top of Conference B, the top of the table clash takes on extra significance for the second row as he is set to make his 100th appearance for the westerners.
Andy Friend’s men also go into the game boosted by the news that Tiernan O’Halloran has returned from a fractured fibula and a syndesmosis injury and will start at full-back. The Galway man is part of a back-three with Australian pair John Porch and Kyle Godwin.
Following an impressive cameo off the bench against Gloucester last Saturday, Tom Daly will feature in midfield alongside Bundee Aki, and Conor Fitzgerald continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade who has played in all 11 of Connacht’s games so far this season.
Up front, the tight five has a very familiar look as props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham combine with hooker Dave Heffernan, while Ultan Dillane teams up with Roux in an all-international second row.
With regular captain Jarrad Butler ruled out due to illness, Gorey native Paul Boyle reverts to the openside berth, Eoin McKeon switches to number 8 and Eoghan Masterson steps up from the bench to fill the number 6 shirt.
Speaking ahead of the eagerly-awaited interprovincial tie, Connacht head coach Friend said: “Saturday is another big occasion in the Sportsground. All players want to be involved in these interpro games, and with Munster in our conference, it takes on extra significance.
“We take pride in our home record and last season Munster were one of the few teams to beat us in the Sportsground, so we know the challenge we will face tomorrow evening.
“It will be a proud day for Quinn Roux and his family. Making 100 appearances for Connacht is a great achievement and it’s fitting that with Jarrad out, Quinn will captain the side. He has been a real leader for us this season and has been driving standards among the player group.”
CONNACHT (v Munster): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Tom Daly, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conor Kenny, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Jack Carty, Stephen Fitzgerald.