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Connacht Make Seven Changes For Crucial Interpro Derby

Connacht Make Seven Changes For Crucial Interpro Derby

Conor Oliver, pictured in action against the Dragons recently, will feature for Connacht against his former side Munster tomorrow night ©INPHO/Ryan Hiscott

The Connacht coaches have again drafted the three representatives in the Ireland squad straight into the starting line-up for Friday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 derby encounter with Munster.

For the Thomond Park tie (kick-off 7.35pm), Bundee Aki is retained at centre following his release from Ireland duty last weekend, while Dave Heffernan and Ultan Dillane start at hooker and in the second row respectively.

There are seven changes to the team that secured a dramatic late win at Benetton last weekend. Denis Buckley rejoins Heffernan and Finlay Bealham in an experienced front row, and packing down behind them will be Gavin Thornbury and Dillane.

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Conor Oliver starts at openside flanker to face his former side, with captain Jarrad Butler and Paul Boyle completing the westerners’ pack.

Jack Carty and Caolin Blade swap back in at half-back, while there are also new faces on the wings in Matt Healy and John Porch. Aki, Tom Daly and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran remain in place from the Treviso trip.

Notably, nine of Connacht’s starting XV are centurions as they look to extend the province’s all-time record of five straight away wins. They have nine points to make up on Conference B leaders Munster.

Head coach Andy Friend commented: “We know exactly what we need to do tomorrow night in Limerick. There has been barely any talk of securing Champions Cup qualification because our first objective has always been first place in Conference B.

“So, all our focus since last weekend has been on getting a win that gives us that fighting chance of a final spot. Thankfully we haven’t picked up any major injury worries in our last two games so we’ve a pretty healthy squad apart from our long-term absentees.

“We’ve named a very experienced starting XV but we’ve made sure to also reward those who showed good form in our last few games. Overall we’re in a positive place, and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”

CONNACHT (v Munster): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Tom Daly, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler (capt), Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Sean O’Brien, Alex Wootton.