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Aki, Hansen And Heffernan Return To Connacht Team

Aki, Hansen And Heffernan Return To Connacht Team

Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen are pictured before Connacht's recent bonus point win over Cardiff at the Sportsground ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Connacht team has been finalised for Friday night’s BKT United Rugby Championship quarter-final encounter with Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).

There are four changes to the side that narrowly lost to Glasgow Warriors, with Grand Slam winners Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen both returning from illness.

There is also a start for fellow Ireland international Dave Heffernan after recovering from injury, while Shamus Hurley-Langton gets the nod at blindside flanker after impressing off the bench in his last few games.

The westerners are captained by Jack Carty who is one of seven Connacht centurions in the starting XV, with another two among the replacements.

Speaking following the team announcement, the province’s director of rugby Andy Friend said: “Tomorrow is the culmination of months of hard work. We were very clear at the start of the season that we wanted to be playing play-off football, and now that we’re here we plan on making the most of it.

“Beating Ulster in Belfast is a tough task for any team, but we’re confident in our abilities and we’ve improved a lot since our last trip up there.

“I’ve heard there’s a huge crowd travelling up to support us which always gives us a boost, so I’m sure they’ll make their voices heard.”

CONNACHT (v Ulster): Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Josh Murphy, Niall Murray, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast.

Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Oisin Dowling, Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Byron Ralston.