Connacht have been boosted by the return of Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane for the Guinness PRO14 clash with Benetton at the Sportsground on Friday night (Kick Off 7:35pm). The return of the trio is a welcome boost to Connacht’s match day squad as they face an in-form Benetton side who have already registered ten wins this season and sit in 2nd place in Conference B of the PRO14.
Carty and Marmion will start on the bench, as Caolin Blade and Kyle Godwin are named as the starting half-back partnership.
Peter Robb and Tom Farrell start again in the Connacht midfield following the bonus point win over Ospreys in the last round. Meanwhile in the back three, Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back with Matt Healy and Darragh Leader on the wings.
Dillane’s inclusion sees him named in a second row alongside James Cannon, with Gavin Thornbury returning from injury to take his place on the bench.
In the front row, props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham are selected with Shane Delahunt at hooker.
The back row has a familiar look to it with captain Jarrad Butler at number 8 and Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are expecting a huge challenge from an in-form Benetton side. “They have been great all year," said Friend. "I'm not surprised they're sitting in second spot. They're playing a physical yet attractive brand of rugby. They've got a lot of quality players, so we are preparing for a top side coming to the Sportsground. We are in a similar situation, they are sitting second in their conference and we are third in ours so both teams will be looking for a win.”
With four rounds of games left in the PRO14, Friend is satisfied that Connacht’s destiny is in their own hands. “We said at the start of the year we wanted to be there at the business end and we're there or thereabouts, but we need to keep winning to make sure we control our destiny. If we keep winning we stay in control. If we don't, then we have to start looking at points and seeing where we can scrounge some. At this stage it's just about the win”.
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Kyle Godwin, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Stephen Fitzgerald.