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Connacht Make Additional Changes For Stade Showdown

Connacht Make Additional Changes For Stade Showdown

Oran McNulty steps up for his Champions Cup debut after two recent URC appearances against the Ospreys and Leinster ©INPHO/James Crombie

Following today’s training session, Connacht have had to make two more changes to the team to play Stade Francais in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup opener at the Sportsground (kick-off 1pm).

In-form winger Mack Hansen (calf) misses out unfortunately, his place going to the equally-quick John Porch, while Caolin Blade comes into the starting XV with Kieran Marmion now on the bench.

That means there are seven changes to the side that lost to Leinster in the United Rugby Championship, including the selection of 21-year-old European debutant Shayne Bolton at outside centre.

Blade and captain Jack Carty, who has 166 Connacht caps to his name, lead a back-line that also includes Sam Arnold, Alex Wootton and IQ Rugby recruit Oran McNulty, another Champions Cup newcomer at full-back.

Shane Delahunt comes in at hooker, forming the front row with Matthew Burke and Finlay Bealham, while Oisin Dowling, who renewed his contract earlier this week, and Niall Murray pair up in a youthful second row pairing.

Kildare youngster Cian Prendergast is selected at blindside flanker, getting his first European start, and he will have Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler for company in the back row.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend is excited by the impending return of Heineken Champions Cup rugby, in front of the home fans in Galway.

“Sunday is the start of a really exciting opportunity for us to make an impact in the Champions Cup,” insisted the Australian.

“Knockout rugby in the competition is the aim so a win this weekend is vital if we want to get there, albeit against a very strong Stade Francais team.

“There’s been some special occasions at our home in this competition, so with a strong Sportsground crowd behind us it’s set up to be a great occasion.”

Bundee Aki (knee), Paul Boyle, who has Achilles and shoulder issues, and Dylan Tierney-Martin (hamstring) all miss out through injury this week.

Tom Farrell (shoulder) and Leva Fifita (knee) were late withdrawals, with their places on the bench taken by Academy youngster Diarmuid Kilgallen and Eoghan Masterson. Denis Buckley (knee), Tom Daly (knee) and Gavin Thornbury (shoulder) are all on the long-term list.

CONNACHT (v Stade Francais): Oran McNulty; Alex Wootton, Shayne Bolton, Sam Arnold, John Porch; Jack Carty (capt), Caolin Blade; Matthew Burke, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Oisin Dowling, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Jordan Duggan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Eoghan Masterson, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Conor Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Kilgallen.