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Buckley Hits Double Century Mark For Connacht

Buckley Hits Double Century Mark For Connacht

Prop Denis Buckley is pictured in action during Connacht's derby win over Munster at Thomond Park two weeks ago ©INPHO/James Crombie

Denis Buckley will become just the third Connacht player to reach 200 caps after he was named in the team to face Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup leaders Benetton Rugby on Saturday (kick-off 6.15pm local time/5.15pm Irish time).

The Roscommon native made his debut for his home province in September 2011, which coincidentally came at the same Stadio di Monigo venue where he will make appearance number 200 this weekend.

He joins two of his former team-mates, John Muldoon and Michael Swift, as the only players to earn a double century of caps for Connacht.

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The other notable inclusion for the trip to Treviso is Bundee Aki’s return to the starting XV. He has not featured for Connacht in nearly three months after serving a suspension following Ireland duty.

The talismanic centre will now be keen to pick up some game-time before he travels with the British & Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa.

Aki partners Tom Daly who starts in midfield for the 15th consecutive game, while Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch form an exciting back-three.

The westerners’ back-line is completed by half-backs Conor Fitzgerald and Kieran Marmion, two of the key men from that impressive derby victory away to Munster in the last round.

Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham pack down with Buckley in the front row, while young guns Niall Murray and Cian Prendergast are retained after excelling in the Munster game.

Murray and Ultan Dillane are the second row choices, with 21-year-old talent Prendergast joined in the back row by the returning Paul Boyle and captain Jarrad Butler.

Speaking about Buckley’s piece of provincial history and Saturday’s opponents, head coach Andy Friend said: “Denis’ 200th appearance tomorrow is a huge achievement for him personally and those that helped him along the way.

“He is a consummate professional who has shown determination and loyalty in the 10 years since his debut, and to reach a milestone like this for your home province makes it even sweeter for him.

“It’s also great to welcome Bundee back to our starting XV. We’re playing a Benetton side who will be hugely motivated to hold on to first place in the table, but we’ve still got a lot to play for as well so it should make for a great game.”

CONNACHT (v Benetton Rugby): John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Bundee Aki, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Oisin Dowling, Abraham Papali’i, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Sam Arnold.