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Heffernan Reaches 200-Cap Milestone For Connacht

Heffernan Reaches 200-Cap Milestone For Connacht

Ballina man Dave Heffernan will become a double centurion for Connacht when he lines out against provincial rivals Leinster ©INPHO/James Crombie

Dave Heffernan, Shane Mallon, and Santiago Cordero will make milestone appearances for Connacht in Friday’s BKT United Rugby Championship derby match against Leinster at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm).

Ballina man Heffernan will make his 200th appearance, coming twelve years after his senior debut for his home province. The Ireland hooker becomes just the eighth Connacht player to reach the double century.

Academy player Mallon has been handed a debut for his home province, with the Leitrim youngster (22) named on the left wing, while Argentinian international Cordero makes his first Connacht start at full-back.

Niall Murray and Conor Oliver are the two changes up front following the 16-12 home defeat to the DHL Stormers, which left the westerners tenth in the table and needing a bonus point win at Leinster, and other results to go their way, in order to reach the play-offs.

The front row of Peter Dooley, Heffernan, and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, Joe Joyce is joined by Murray, who replaces his younger brother Darragh, in the engine room, and Cian Prendergast and Sean Jansen complete the back row.

Captain Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, and David Hawkshaw are the only starting backs retained, as Cathal Forde, the Connacht Fans’ Player of the Year, combines with Hawkshaw at centre, and Mallon, Cordero, and Shane Jennings make up a new-look back-three.

Speaking ahead of the final round trip to Dublin, head coach Pete Wilkins commented: “Although disappointed we have put ourselves in a position where we are relying on other results to secure our place in the URC top eight, there is no greater incentive for a performance than an away game against Leinster.

“Both the rivalry and the connections between the two provinces are special, and we have approached this week with excitement, focus, and determination.

“For Dave Heffernan to be making his 200th Connacht appearance, and Shane Mallon his first, typifies the Connacht ethos of developing local players who understand how special it is to play for this province. Dave and Shane’s families, friends, and local communities can be very proud of their respective milestones.

“We must ensure we deliver a top class performance on Friday evening, not only to mark the occasion for these men, but also to ensure our season marches on beyond this weekend and reward our fantastic supporters who have given us so much energy and belief across the season.”

CONNACHT (v Leinster): Santiago Cordero; Shane Jennings, David Hawkshaw, Cathal Forde, Shane Mallon; Jack Carty (capt), Caolin Blade; Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Joe Joyce, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Sean Jansen.

Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Denis Buckley, Jack Aungier, Darragh Murray, Seán O’Brien, Colm Reilly, Byron Ralston, Tom Daly.