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Daly Returns For Connacht’s Interpro Trip To Belfast

Daly Returns For Connacht’s Interpro Trip To Belfast

Connacht centre Tom Daly takes on Ulster's James Hume during the sides' clash at the Aviva Stadium earlier this season ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Tom Daly is one of a number of players returning to the Connacht team for Friday’s United Rugby Championship derby against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm).

Daly has missed the last three months with a knee injury he sustained against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in October, but now makes a welcome return in mdfield alongside Sam Arnold.

The starting XV also includes Denis Buckley for the first time since June, Conor Fitzgerald and John Porch, who were both unavailable last week, and Cian Prendergast who has returned from a stint with Ireland as a development player.

In all, there are 11 changes to the side that lost 42-20 at home to Glasgow Warriors in disappointing fashion last weekend.

Buckley is named in a new-look tight five with Shane Delahunt at hooker and Tietie Tuimauga on the tighthead side, while Niall Murray and Oisin Dowling are paired together in the second row.

Jarrad Butler captains the westerners from number 8, with Prendergast, fresh from training with the Ireland squad in Portugal, and Conor Oliver on the flanks.

Fitzgerald is handed his first start of the season, with Kieran Marmion alongside him at half-back, and a freshened-up back-three features Porch at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.

Speaking about the squad’s build-up to this crunch interprovincial fixture, head coach Andy Friend said: “We’ve had an honest week with difficult conversations about what happened last weekend.

“The performance against Glasgow wasn’t nearly good enough and we need to see a major improvement tomorrow against a strong Ulster team who are on a good run of form.

“We’re welcoming back a number of players for various reasons which is always a plus, and we can take confidence from a good record up in Belfast the last few years.”

CONNACHT (v Ulster): John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Sam Arnold, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Tietie Tuimauga, Niall Murray, Oisin Dowling, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler (capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Jordan Duggan, Greg McGrath, Leva Fifita, Paul Boyle, Colm Reilly, Cathal Forde, Oran McNulty.