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Carty Returns To Lead Connacht In Limerick

Carty Returns To Lead Connacht In Limerick

Athlone man Jack Carty will make his 210th appearance for Connacht when they visit provincial rivals Munster ©INPHO/James Crombie

Experienced number 10 Jack Carty will captain Connacht when they take on third-placed Munster in Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship derby clash at Thomond Park (kick-off 5.15pm).

There are three injury-enforced changes to the team that beat the Dragons 34-27 last time out. Peter Dooley and Paul Boyle are restored to the starting pack, while Carty, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, will lead the province from out-half.

Denis Buckley and Cian Prendergast are sidelined with thumb and shoulder injuries respectively, and the unfortunate JJ Hanrahan suffered an ACL injury at Rodney Parade. He will undergo surgery later this month.

The other changes see Oisín Dowling start alongside Joe Joyce in the second row, while the fit-again Byron Ralston, who is back from an ankle injury, comes onto the left wing.

Ireland internationals Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham complete the westerners’ front row, with Boyle linking up with Shamus Hurley-Langton and former Munster flanker Conor Oliver in the loose forwards.

Academy graduate Matthew Devine’s performances at scrum half have been rewarded with a third successive start. The 22-year-old Ballinasloe native combines with Carty for the first time in a starting XV.

Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Shane Jennings, and Tiernan O’Halloran, who recently announced his decision to retire from professional rugby at the end of the season, make up the rest of the selected back-line.

Jack Aungier (neck) and Sean Jansen (groin) have recovered from their respective injuries to be included on the replacements bench, but Mack Hansen’s expected return from a dislocated shoulder will be delayed by a week to next Saturday’s home game against the DHL Stormers.

Pete Wilkins’ men sit sixth in the URC table, level on 44 points with Ulster and Benetton below them, and just a point behind the Stormers in fifth. All three of their final regular season matches are against teams in the top five currently.

Connacht’s only win away from home against a fellow Irish province since May 2021 was last season’s 15-10 quarter-final victory at Ulster. They have registered one win in Limerick since 2015, in a behind-closed-doors fixture in the Rainbow Cup in May 2021.

“Firstly we’re incredibly excited about tomorrow’s game,” said head coach Wilkins. “These interpros, especially ones of such importance, are the kind of days you train for and look forward to all year.

“We’ve picked a (matchday) 23 that we know can deliver a physical and committed performance from the first minute, because that’s what will be needed.

“Munster have quality players all over the field and are always a challenge to play in Limerick, but I’m confident in our squad and our game-plan that we can give ourselves every opportunity if we play to our potential.”

CONNACHT (v Munster): Tiernan O’Halloran; Shane Jennings, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Byron Ralston; Jack Carty (capt), Matthew Devine; Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Joe Joyce, Oisín Dowling, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Niall Murray, Sean Jansen, Caolin Blade, Cathal Forde, Jarrad Butler.