Eoghan Masterson will become the latest Connacht centurion tomorrow after he was named in the team to face provincial rivals Ulster at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm).
Masterson made his Connacht debut during the 2013/14 season after representing both the Ireland and Scotland Under-20s. In recent weeks he has deputised in the second row but will return to his favoured back row position for this Guinness PRO14 festive derby.
The Portlaoise-born 27-year-old named at blindside flanker with Conor Oliver on the opposite flank and captain Jarrad Butler returning to the number 8 position.
Butler’s inclusion is one of six changes to the side that lost out to Bristol last weekend, with Shane Delahunt, Quinn Roux, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly and Tiernan O’Halloran also coming into the starting XV.
Hooker Delahunt helms a front row that is completed by Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, while Ireland international Roux is back from a two-week absence to partner Ultan Dillane at lock.
Jack Carty and Blade form the half-back pairing, with the in-form Daly resuming at inside centre alongside Sam Arnold. O’Halloran’s selection sees John Porch move to the right wing with Matt Healy on the left.
Commenting on Masterson’s achievement and the team selection for the interpro tie, head coach Andy Friend said: “Reaching 100 caps for any side is a huge achievement so I’d like to congratulate Eoghan Masterson on the milestone.
“Eoghan is a very professional athlete who leads from the front by the way he conducts himself both on and off the field. To hit 100 games despite his injury setbacks down the years only adds to the achievement.
“Building squad depth has been a key objective for us, so we are fortunate to be able to make most of these changes not because of injuries but to keep the squad fresh and give players their deserved opportunities.
“No doubt Ulster will be disappointed with their European results, but their PRO14 form this season speaks for itself. Both sets of players and coaches know each other well at this stage so it’s all about sticking to our systems and taking our chances when they come.”
CONNACHT (v Ulster): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Sam Arnold, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Jordan Duggan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Sean O’Brien, Colm de Buitléar.