Caolin Blade recovers from injury to start against Benetton

Galway Daily sport Four Connacht players named for Ireland ‘A’ Match Day Squad

Caolin Blade has recovered from a hamstring injury in time to make the starting lineup for Friday’s match against Benetton, his first time starting since October.

Blade taking the scrum-half spot is the only change Andy Friend has made to the side that was selected to play against the Ospreys last weekend, but never got to take to the field.

The Ospreys game which was meant take place last Saturday was postponed after a player for the Welsh club tested positive COVID-19.

Connacht will be welcoming Benetton to the Sportsground this Friday, December 4, with kick-off at 7:35pm.

Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.

Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.

Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.

Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.

Andy Friend said that the postponement of the Ospreys game put them in something of a tricky position as regards selecting a team for this match.

“In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress.”

“We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow night, Friend said that Connacht need to leverage home games like these to build up their points tally.

“It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.”

Friday 4th December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)