Connacht Rugby are welcoming a number of international players back into the fold for their Christmas interpro against Ulster.
Connacht will face Ulster at the Sportsground on Friday in the URC, hot off a bonus point win in France in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The squad has been almost completely changed from the side that defeated Brive last week, with just Shane Delahunt, Oisín Dowling and Bundee Aki remaining in the starting lineup.
Director of Rugby Andy Friend said, “We all realise the importance of tomorrow’s game in our aims for a top 8 finish this season.”
“We’ve a number of players returning to us after a break, and have also included a few players in the 23 who impressed in the Challenge Cup, so there’s a good mix in our matchday squad.”
Captain Jack Carty, Finlay Bealham, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver and John Porch all return after being rested for the two weeks of Challenge Cup rugby, while Mack Hansen has recovered from injury to also start.
Denis Buckley completes the front row with Delahunt and Bealham, while locks Josh Murphy and Niall Murray are paired together. Dowling retains his place at blindside flanker, with Oliver on the opposite side for his 50th appearance and Prendergast at number 8.
Caolin Blade is chosen at scrum-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. With Hansen and Porch on the wings, Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back.
Andy Friend said that games against Ulster are always intense, with victory dependent on being able to “front up for the full 80 minutes” of the match.
“With a large crowd behind us and everyone in the Christmas spirit it’s sure to be a great occasion”.
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Friday 23rd December, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (211)
14. John Porch (68)
13. Tom Farrell (86)
12. Bundee Aki (122)
11. Mack Hansen (20)
10. Jack Carty (186) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (157)
1. Denis Buckley (218)
2. Shane Delahunt (120)
3. Finlay Bealham (181)
4. Josh Murphy (7)
5. Niall Murray (44)
6. Oisín Dowling (34)
7. Conor Oliver (49)
8. Cian Prendergast (35)
16. Dave Heffernan (174)
17. Peter Dooley (9)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (73)
19. Shamus Hurley-Langton (8)
20. Jarrad Butler (103)
21. Kieran Marmion (218)
22. David Hawkshaw (9)
23. Adam Byrne (3)