Connacht head coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade (kick-off 7.35pm).
Eoghan Masterson comes in for his 93rd Connacht appearance, starting at blindside flanker. Captain Jarrad Butler moves to number 8 while Conor Oliver retains his place on the opposite flank.
In the back-line, Sam Arnold comes in to partner the in-form Bundee Aki at centre, Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion, who are both part of the Ireland squad announced yesterday, continue together at half-back, and John Porch, Peter Sullivan and Alex Wootton combine again in the back-three.
The remainder of the team is the same that impressively saw off Glasgow Warriors 28-24 last week, with hooker Dave Heffernan joined by Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in the front row, while Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux, another of Connacht’s six Ireland call-ups, continue their second row partnership.
Commenting on the team selection, Friend said: “We were very pleased to pick up the win last week and the way the squad took control of the game in the second half. That said, we are targeting two wins from these first two games so the job is only half done.
Rodney Parade is a tough place to go but I have full confidence in the squad we have selected to go over there and get the win.
“Unfortunately we will be without Niall Murray for a lengthy period, but we are able to welcome back Ultan Dillane and Shane Delahunt has served his suspension so we are in a good place overall.”
In an injury update issued by the Connacht medical team, they confirmed that young lock Murray underwent shoulder surgery earlier this week and will be out of action until January.
Tom Farrell (thigh), Caolin Blade (ill), Peter Robb (groin) and Matt Healy (calf) will look to integrate into full team training next week, and the following week will see Tiernan O’Halloran (hip) aim to return to training.
CONNACHT (v Cardiff Blues): John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Sam Arnold, Bundee Aki, Alex Wootton; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, Stephen Kerins, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.