Ireland internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan have returned to the Connacht team to face Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm). Tickets are available to buy online here.
The return of the duo is a timely boost to Andy Friend’s side as they prepare for a crucial Conference B match that could have a huge bearing on qualification for the knockout stages of the GUINNESS PRO14.
Ballina native Heffernan comes into the front row alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham. Dillane teams up at lock with the impressive Gavin Thornbury. Quinn Roux is still unavailable following surgery on a hand injury.
Captain Jarrad Butler helms a back row that also includes Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a, while Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion continue as the province’s half-back pairing. Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade provide back-up from the bench.
With Bundee Aki unavailable due to Ireland commitments, Peter Robb, who has signed a contract extension, and Kyle Godwin combine in the centre, and Tiernan O’Halloran has Matt Healy and John Porch for company in the back-three.
Commenting ahead of the round 11 encounter, head coach Friend said: “The break over the past few weeks has come at a good time for the squad. It allowed time for a few injuries to clear up and gave some recovery time to others that had played a lot of minutes over the 13-week block of games.
“The boys are ready to go now and know the importance of the next three games in the context of our season. With Connacht and Cardiff in the same conference this game becomes even more important.
“A win in this game last season ultimately qualified us for the knockout stages of the PRO14 and for a spot in the Champions Cup. I’m sure they will be keen to turn the tables this season so we face a huge battle on Saturday night.”
CONNACHT (v Cardiff Blues): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.