Six changes have been made to the Connacht side that will face off against Benetton this weekend, with Grand Slam winners Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki returning to the fold.
This will be Hansen’s first time back playing for Connacht since starting in every Irish game in the Six Nations, and Aki’s first time back in the starting XV with the province since Christmas.
Their respective returns are among the six changes made from the side that beat Edinburgh last week, with fellow internationals Dave Heffernan, Leva Fifita, Paul Boyle and Tiernan O’Halloran also coming into the starting team.
Connacht will be headed to Treviso to face the Italian side this Saturday, with kick-off at 3pm Irish time.
Speaking following the team announcement, Director of Rugby Andy Friend said that this was yet another bit of good news after last week’s win against Edinburgh.
“There was lots to like about last weekend’s win, so it’s a brilliant situation we find ourselves in where we can bring six experienced internationals into the team for this game.”
“That experience will be very important in knockout rugby, particularly away against a Benetton side who will also welcome back some important players.”
Heffernan is joined by props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier while Niall Murray partners Fifita in the second row. The back row sees flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver join number 8 Boyle.
The 9-10 combo of captain Caolin Blade and David Hawkshaw is unchanged, while Tom Farrell partners Aki at outside centre. The inclusion of Hansen and O’Halloran means John Porch moves to the right wing.
Andy Friend has a very positive outlook on the strength of the Connacht squad, and what it means for their chances in the URC.
“I’m very confident that we have the sufficient squad depth to challenge on both fronts in this final block of games.”
“What’s important now is to build on our recent performances as we attempt to progress through to the next stage of this competition.”
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Saturday 1st April, 15:00 Irish time @ Stadio Comunale di Monigo
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (217)
14. John Porch (76)
13. Tom Farrell (94)
12. Bundee Aki (123)
11. Mack Hansen (24)
10. David Hawkshaw (13)
9. Caolin Blade (165)
1. Peter Dooley (15)
2. Dave Heffernan (179)
3. Jack Aungier (47)
4. Leva Fifita (23)
5. Niall Murray (51)
6. Cian Prendergast (42)
7. Conor Oliver (58)
8. Paul Boyle (84)
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (19)
17. Jordan Duggan (37)
18. Sam Illo (9)
19. Oisin Dowling (39)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (15)
21. Kieran Marmion (225)
22. Cathal Forde (11)
23. Shane Jennings (2)