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Boyle Leads Connacht For Tigers Test

Boyle Leads Connacht For Tigers Test

Former Ireland Under-20 captain Paul Boyle gets an offload away during a recent encounter with Benetton Rugby ©INPHO/Elena Barbini

Connacht will field an almost fully-loaded team as they go in search of a win in Saturday’s European Challenge Cup round of 16 match against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road (kick-off 8pm).

In the absence of the suspended Jarrad Butler, Gorey man Paul Boyle captains the province from number 8, with Eoghan Masterson and Conor Oliver completing the back row.

Despite the continued absence of Quinn Roux (shoulder), there is plenty of experience in a tight five comprised of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane and the in-form Gavin Thornbury.

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Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion continue their long-standing half-back partnership, while Academy talent Sean O’Brien and Tom Daly start together in midfield for the third straight game. Bundee Aki is suspended.

Another of Connacht’s centurions, Matt Healy, is named on the left wing, forming a back-three combination with the exciting Alex Wootton and John Porch.

As the westerners attempt to improve a run of just two wins in 19 Challenge Cup trips to England, head coach Andy Friend said: “We had difficult decisions to make across the park with our starting XV. It’s a testament to our squad that we’ve got a really strong bench while others will miss out entirely.

“That’s what you want going into knockout European rugby. It’s no secret that the Connacht record in Europe needs to improve, but this is a group of players that know how to break hoodoos on the road.

“Leicester Tigers in Welford Road is one of the great challenges in European rugby and I have full confidence in the squad to get the win and really put us in the mix for silverware at the end of the season.”

CONNACHT (v Leicester Tigers): John Porch; Alex Wootton, Sean O’Brien, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (capt).

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Oisin Dowling, Abraham Papali’i, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Sullivan.