Connacht welcome back trio ahead of visit of Cardiff blues

Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and John Cooney all return from injury

Denis Buckley

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Pat Lam welcomes back Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and John Cooney for the visit of Cardiff Blues in the Pro12 this weekend.

The trio take their place in the starting XV for Friday night's clash at the Sportsground. Buckley will make his 100th appearance for the province and lines out for his first game in two months. He starts beside the returning McCartney and tighthead Conor Carey.

James Cannon is handed his first Pro12 start with the province, starting alongside Quinn Roux in the second row. The back row will consist of captain John Muldoon, Eoin McKeon and Jake Heenan.

Ireland international Niyi Adeolokun starts two weeks after making his first senior international appearance against Canada and lines out beside Cian Kelleher and Stacey Ili.

Craig Ronaldson and Bundee Aki feature in midfield, while outhalf Jack Carty also makes the cut. South African Marnitz Boshoff is named among the substitutes.

"The break in games has been extremely beneficial as we have been able to get some players back from injury and work on improving our game," said Lam.

"We really enjoy playing Cardiff as they are always a tough challenge. Our games always go right down to the wire. We will have to be on our game as their away form is very good this season.

"We know we have to improve on our last outing to get the points on offer so being back at the Sportsground after a long break is a major boost. The atmosphere will once again be electric as its all set to be a full house, which is fantastic on an international weekend."

Connacht XV to face Cardiff Blues (Caps)

15 Cian Kelleher (8)
14 Niyi Adeolokun (41)
13 Bundee Aki (49)
12 Craig Ronaldson (55)
11 Stacey Ili (5)
10 Jack Carty (63)
9 John Cooney (26)

1 Denis Buckley (99)
2 Tom McCartney (47)
3 Conor Carey (6)
4 Quinn Roux (38)
5 James Cannon (2)
6 Eoin McKeon (94)
7 Jake Heenan (41)
8 John Muldoon (captain) (284)

Replacements:

16 Dave Heffernan (66)
17 Ronan Loughney (189)
18 JP Cooney (36)
19 Lewis Stevenson (6)
20 Nepia Fox-Matamua (9)
21 Caolin Blade (29)
22 Marnitz Boshoff (0)
23 Danie Poolman (73)