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Connacht Give First Starts To Academy Duo

Connacht Give First Starts To Academy Duo

Academy youngster Sean O'Brien gets a tackle in on Peter Sullivan during training this week ©INPHO/James Crombie

With Champions Cup rugby already secured, the Connacht management have opted for a much-changed squad to face Edinburgh at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm).

It promises to be a big night for three Academy players, with Cian Prendergast and centre Sean O’Brien handed their first starts and Oran McNulty in line for his senior debut off the bench.

Yesterday it was announced that Prendergast and McNulty have both signed professional contracts with the province for the 2021/22 season.

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Hooker Shane Delahunt is joined by Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier in the front row, while Niall Murray combines in the engine room with Gavin Thornbury, who is fresh from his player-of-the-match performance against Munster.

In a back row led by captain Jarrad Butler, the 21-year-old Prendergast will fill the blindside flanker berth and Eoghan Masterson, one of the players to extend their contracts, is stationed at number 8.

Ireland internationals Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion are selected together at half-back, O’Brien (22) gets the nod in midfield alongside Tom Carty, and Alex Wootton – this time at full-back – forms an exciting back-three with Matt Healy and Ben O’Donnell.

Ahead of the round 15 date with the Scots, head coach Andy Friend said: “Securing a top-three finish with games to spare gives us a really good opportunity to give more minutes to players who have been knocking on the door all season.

“That said, we are still going out there as eager as ever to pick up another win. It would be another positive step for us to secure second place in Conference B.

“So that’s what we’ll look to do, and the task for this group of players is to build on last week’s performance against Munster.”

CONNACHT (v Edinburgh): Alex Wootton; Ben O’Donnell, Sean O’Brien, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier, Niall Murray, Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (capt), Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Jordan Duggan, Conor Kenny, Abraham Papali’i, Conor Oliver, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Oran McNulty.