The return of club captain Jack Carty is one of three changes to the Connacht team for Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship derby match against Ulster at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm). Limited tickets are still available here.
Carty has recovered from the jaw injury he suffered against the Ospreys to make his first start of the campaign, while forwards Oisin Dowling and Conor Oliver also come into the province’s starting XV.
For the third straight game, head coach Pete Wilkins has selected a front row of Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and Jack Aungier, with Joe Joyce, who is set for his first taste of an interprovincial clash, is partnered by Dowling at lock.
Oliver’s return to the back row means Ireland international Cian Prendergast, who makes his 50th appearance for Connacht, moves to number 8, and Shamus Hurley-Langton shifts to the blindside flanker berth.
Apart from Carty’s inclusion for the injured JJ Hanrahan (knee), the westerners’ back-line is unchanged with in-form scrum half Caolin Blade, centres Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell, and a back-three of Tiernan O’Halloran, Byron Ralston and Diarmuid Kilgallen, who bagged two tries against Glasgow Warriors last weekend.
The bench line-up returns to a 5-3 split, with Jordan Duggan, who made his Connacht debut against Ulster in August 2020, and David Hawkshaw in line for their first appearances of the season.
Commenting ahead of the interprovincial encounter, Wilkins said: “We’re progressing well so far, but we know we need to up our game again to beat what will be a very strong Ulster side.
“Like us they’ve won their first two games so have some momentum. They will arrive with plenty of intensity, so it’s up to us to match that.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had an interpro at the Sportsground, and with our first game of the season under the lights it promises to be a special atmosphere and occasion.”
CONNACHT (v Ulster): Tiernan O’Halloran; Byron Ralston, Tom Farrell, Cathal Forde, Diarmuid Kilgallen; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Jack Aungier, Oisin Dowling, Joe Joyce, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast.
Replacements: Tadgh McElroy, Jordan Duggan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Niall Murray, Jarrad Butler, Colm Reilly, David Hawkshaw, Andrew Smith.