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Connacht Make Nine Changes For Stormers Showdown

Connacht Make Nine Changes For Stormers Showdown

Young hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin will make his second start for Connacht in the United Rugby Championship ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Connacht team has been announced ahead of Saturday’s clash with the reigning champions, the DHL Stormers, at Stellenbosch’s Danie Craven Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm local time/1.30pm Irish time).

There are nine changes to the side that lost to Ulster, with six of those among the forwards as the westerners embark on a two-match BKT United Rugby Championship tour of South Africa.

There is a new front row of Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and Finlay Bealham, supported by a freshened up second row partnership of Niall Murray and Josh Murphy who moves from blindside flanker.

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Cian Prendergast, one of five Connacht players in the Emerging Ireland squad, and captain for the day, Jarrad Butler, come onto the flanks with Gorey man Paul Boyle retained at number 8.

Caolin Blade joins Conor Fitzgerald at half-back, while there are starts in the back-three for Mack Hansen, returning from Ireland’s successful summer tour to New Zealand, and Oran McNulty.

Hansen starts on the left wing with John Porch on right and the 22-year-old McNulty stationed at full-back, while Australian newcomer Byron Ralston shifts to midfield where he partners Tom Farrell for the first time.

The Connacht squad arrived in Cape Town on Tuesday and travel today to Stellenbosch. They will remain there until Thursday when they fly to Pretoria for the next week’s match against the Vodacom Bulls.

As they look to bounce back from a 36-10 derby defeat to Ulster, director of rugby Andy Friend said: “We’ve had a positive week so far in South Africa. After arriving on Tuesday, we’ve managed to get the required training done and we’re in a good space heading into our game against the Stormers.

“I don’t believe that our performance against Ulster was reflective of all the hard work we’d put in during pre-season.

“I’m very confident that we’ll deliver a much improved performance on Saturday against last year’s champions.”

CONNACHT (v DHL Stormers): Oran McNulty; John Porch, Byron Ralston, Tom Farrell, Mack Hansen; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Finlay Bealham, Josh Murphy, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter Dooley, Jack Aungier, Oisín Dowling, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki, David Hawkshaw.