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Connacht Welcome Back Six Internationals For Tigers Test

Connacht Welcome Back Six Internationals For Tigers Test

Bundee Aki is pictured celebrating after Jack Carty scored a try for Connacht against Munster back in mid-October ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

The Connacht team to face Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday has been named (kick-off 1pm).

In total, there are six changes to the side that handed Stade Francais a 36-9 beating in Galway last week, with every returning player an Ireland international.

Bundee Aki starts his first game for Connacht in over two months, returning from injury to partner Sam Arnold at centre for the second round clash at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Clifden man Tiernan O’Halloran is also included, starting at full-back with Alex Wootton and John Porch, both try scorers last week against Stade, named on the wings.

After coming off the bench during that first round fixture, Kieran Marmion gets the nod to start at scrum half alongside captain Jack Carty.

Three more international players, hooker Dave Heffernan, prop Finlay Bealham and lock Ultan Dillane, are also drafted into the westerners’ pack.

Matthew Burke and 22-year-old lock Niall Murray make up the rest of the tight five, while the back row is unchanged with flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver combining with experienced number 8 Jarrad Butler.

A powerful looking bench includes the likes of Samoan international prop Tietie Tuimauga, who could make his debut if called upon, as well as Leva Fifita and Abraham Papali’i.

Commenting on the team selection, head coach Andy Friend said: “We’re under no illusions we face one of the biggest challenges in European rugby on Sunday, but it’s also very exciting and exactly the kind of occasion you want to play in.

“We’ve brought in a lot of experience which will stand to us for a game like this, and there’s some powerful options on the bench as well.

“Tietie Tuimauga has settled in very well so Sunday will be a great stage for him to make his debut if called upon.”

CONNACHT (v Leicester Tigers): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Sam Arnold, Bundee Aki, Alex Wootton; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Mattthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Tietie Tuimauga, Jack Aungier, Leva Fifita, Abraham Papali’i, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Kilgallen.