Aki and Oliver starting for Connacht against Bristol

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Galway Daily sport Aki and Oliver starting for Connacht against Bristol

Only two changes have been made to the Connacht Rugby squad facing Bristol tomorrow from the side that suffered a close defeat by Racing 92 last week.

Connacht and Bristol have a pre-Christmas Heineken Champions Cup clash at The Sportsground this Sunday, with kick-off at 5:30pm.

Bundee Aki and Conor Oliver are both starting, but the 23 man squad remains unchanged, as Tom Daly and Jarrad Butler are named among the replacements.

That means Paul Boyle again captains the side from the number 8 position, while Sean Masterson completes the back row with Boyle and Oliver.

Sean’s brother Eoghan and Ultan Dillane again pair up in the second row, and Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham complete the pack.

Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue at scrum-half and out-half respectively, while Aki is partnered by Sammy Arnold at outside-centre. The back three is again made up of Matt Healy, Alex Wootton and John Porch.

Head Coach Andy Friend said of the selection, “While you’re never happy with a defeat, there was a huge amount to like about that performance in France last week.”

“It makes sense for us to stick with those same group of players, so the key thing now is we bring that level of consistency to our game and produce it in week in week out.”

Out of the 23 players on the squad, 14 came up through the Connacht Academy, which Friend says shows the level of trust the province have in their systems.

Regarding the game itself, Friend added “European games under The Sportsground lights are always special occasions so no doubt we’ll miss our supporters again on Sunday.

“Both ourselves and Bristol know only a win will do if we want to reach the quarter-finals so it should be a great contest and hopefully we’ll come out the right side of the result.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BRISTOL BEARS
Sunday 20th December, The Sportsground, k/o 5.30pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (25)
14. Alex Wootton (8)
13. Sammy Arnold (8)
12. Bundee Aki (104)
11. Matt Healy (140)
10. Jack Carty (145)
9. Kieran Marmion (171)
1. Denis Buckley (186)
2. Dave Heffernan (133)
3. Finlay Bealham (145)
4. Eoghan Masterson (98)
5. Ultan Dillane (102)
6. Sean Masterson (6)
7. Conor Oliver (8)
8. Paul Boyle (46) (C)
Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (84)
17. Jordan Duggan (4)
18. Jack Aungier (8)
19. Cian Prendergast (3)
20. Jarrad Butler (63)
21. Caolin Blade (116)
22. Tom Daly (32)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (185)