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Debutant Dowling On The Bench For Connacht

Debutant Dowling On The Bench For Connacht

Former Leinster and Ireland Under-20 lock Oisin Dowling is pictured with Oisin McCormack during an 'A' interprovincial match for Connacht Eagles in December ©INPHO/James Crombie

Finlay Bealham and Jack Carty will both line out for Connacht for the 150th time in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 fixture away to the Dragons (kick-off 7.35pm).

Both Ireland internationals are products of the Connacht Academy, with Carty making his senior debut in September 2012 and Bealham in February 2014. Between them they have won 24 Ireland caps.

Bealham lines out in a familiar front row alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt, while Niall Murray and Gavin Thornbury form a new-look second row partnership.

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Gorey man Paul Boyle captains the side from blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver st openside and the hard-carrying Abraham Papali’i at number 8. Thornbury and Boyle will also hit the milestone of 50 caps for Connacht.

Carty will be joined at half-back by Caolin Blade, while the centre combination of Tom Daly and Peter Robb is unchanged. The back-three consists of Matt Healy, Peter Sullivan and John Porch.

Among the replacements is former Ireland Under-20 second row Oisin Dowling who is in line to make his Connacht debut after recovering from a long-term back injury.

Speaking ahead of the trip to Newport, head coach Andy Friend said: “This is a must-win for us given results of the last few weeks. While our home form has been disappointing we’ve had honest reviews of what’s gone wrong and the reaction in training has been good.

“Our away form has been a positive for us this season, so we’ll look to keep that going tomorrow albeit against tough opposition and a tough place to go in Rodney Parade.

“We’ve a number of players earning significant caps tomorrow so I’d like to congratulate Finlay, Jack, Gavin and Paul on the milestones.

“We’ve also got Oisin Dowling in line for his first appearance which has been long overdue after his back injury, and that’s a testament to him and the medical department. Overall we’ve a pretty healthy squad which is a boost heading into a key part of the season.”

CONNACHT (v Dragons): John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle (capt), Conor Oliver, Abraham Papali’i.

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Oisin Dowling, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Sean O’Brien, Alex Wootton.