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Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

15.41 4 Mar 2021


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Connacht head coach Andy Friend has named a strong starting XV to face Munster in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night. 

He's been able to call upon international trio Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan and Ultane Dillane for the game at Thomond Park.

Connacht are looking to derail Munster's march to the PRO14 final. A win for the hosts on Friday night would do the trick.

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Friend's made seven changes from the side that edged out Benetton last week, courtesy of a last-gasp Aki try.

John Porch and Matt Healy are introduced on the wings, with Alex Wootton starting on the bench against his former side.

There's a new half-back partnership of Caolin Blade and Jack Carty.

Heffernan and Denis Buckley come into the Connacht front-row for Shane Delahunt and Paddy McAllister.

Dillane partners Gavin Thornbury in the second row, replacing Oisin Dowling.

While Conor Oliver comes into the back-row alongside captain Jarrad Butler and Paul Boyle.

"We know exactly what we need to do tomorrow night in Limerick," Friend said.

"There has been barely any talk of securing Champions Cup qualification because our first objective has always been 1st place in the Conference B, so all our focus since last weekend has been on getting a win that gives us that fighting chance of a final spot."

Last week's win in Italy saw Connacht break a club record of five consecutive away wins, and Tiernan O'Halloran says the confidence is there to stretch the run to six.

"We’re not in any way going to go down there and try to shut up shop for 80 minutes and try to force mistakes from them," the full-back said.

"We’re fully going down to win the game as well.

"I think if you look at everything since the pandemic happened with away records, and we have won five on the row on the road, and I think you have to factor in that the atmosphere usually at Thomond Park creates a lot of pressure.

"Any little mistakes and the crowd will feed off that. That in itself releases a slight bit of pressure as well and opens up the game a bit more and you can see teams are winning away from home much easier.

“Not in any way are we going down there to shut up shop, we’re happy to trust our game plan and trust what we can do. We have got our Irish lads released this week as well, so we will be fully stocked and loaded.”

Connacht team v Munster: 

15. Tiernan O'Halloran; 14. John Porch, 13. Tom Daly, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Matt Healy; 10. Jack Carty, 9. Caolin Blade.

1. Denis Buckley, 2. Dave Heffernan, 3. Finlay Bealham; 4. Ultan Dillane, 5. Gavin Thornbury; 6. Jarrad Butler, 7. Conor Oliver, 8. Paul Boyle.

Replacements:
16. Shane Delahunt, 17. Matthew Burke, 18. Jack Aungier, 19. Niall Murray, 20. Eoghan Masterson, 21. Kieran Marmion, 22. Sean O'Brien, 23. Alex Wootton.

Ireland comes before the Lions for Andy Farrell


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Alex Wootton Andy Friend Bundee Aki Caolin Blade Connacht Guinness Pro14 Jack Carty Kieran Marmion Matt Healy Munster Pro 14 Tiernan O'Halloran Ultan Dillane

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