Ireland international Kieran Marmion has recovered from a back injury to take his place in the Connacht team for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup round 6 clash away to Montpellier (kick-off 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time).
The scrum half has not played for Connacht since their GUINNESS PRO14 win over the Ospreys at the beginning of November. Marmion’s inclusion sees him renew his half back partnership with fellow international Jack Carty.
Elsewhere in the back-line, Kyle Godwin comes into the midfield to partner Bundee Aki, and the back-three is made up of Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch and Matt Healy, Connacht’s record try scorer.
The pack contains the remaining four of seven personnel changes, with Dave Heffernan, who was included in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad this week, Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Joe Maksymiw all starting after appearing off the bench during the 21-7 loss to Toulouse.
Paddy McAllister and Gavin Thornbury complete the tight five, while Colby Fainga’a and captain Jarrad Butler are joined in the back row by Eoghan Masterson. 20-year-old second row Niall Murray gets another chance to impress off the bench.
With both teams unable to qualify for the knockout stages, Connacht will be looking to complete the double over Montpellier, recapturing the sort of form which saw them edge out the French outfit 23-20 at the Sportsground back in November.
Commenting ahead of the westerners’ final European game of the season, head coach Andy Friend said: “We had a great win over Montpellier in the opening round but are under no illusion that the return leg will be a huge challenge.
“We’ve picked a strong side and are aiming to win the game and regain some momentum ahead of an important block of games coming up in the GUINNESS PRO14.
“We are delighted to see Kieran back from injury. He has been out since November and has worked really hard to get back on the field. His experience alongside Jack, at half-back, will be a boost to us on Sunday afternoon.”
CONNACHT (v Montpellier): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Denis Buckley, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.