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Carty, Marmion and Dillane back to boost Connacht for Italian job

Andy Friend will have three of his Ireland internationals back in harness for Friday’s visit of Benetton.

Ultan Dillane in Connacht training at the Sportsground yesterday.
Ultan Dillane in Connacht training at the Sportsground yesterday.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ANDY FRIEND WILL waste no time in throwing Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion back into provincial action after returning to Connacht from Six Nations duty.

Connacht host Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground this Friday, with third place in Conference A the long-term ambition for the westerners, but their immediate plans have had to be drawn up without Bundee Aki and Quinn Roux, who will not return in time for this weekend’s action.

Carty and Marmion are expected to start on the bench against the Italians in Galway [KO 7.35pm, TG4/eir Sport], which will likely mean another outing for Kyle Godwin at out-half, but Friend is thrilled to see his players back unscathed after they impressed during brief appearances for Ireland.

“They did well when they came on. I thought they were good. They really picked the pace of the game up. I’ve just enjoyed their calmness,” said Friend.

“Jack Carty, third Test, well behind on the scoreboard, but he just got in there and did his stuff and created a few opportunities. Kieran came on and I thought he was very good too, got through his stuff. Quinn, when he came on, was quality.

“I was really pleased for those three boys and proud of the way they came on. Bundee got the start there, but it’s probably a game [against Wales] that Ireland want to put an end to pretty quickly and move on to World Cup preparations.”

A starter in all five Six Nations game, Aki is not scheduled to link up with Connacht until Monday next ahead of their Challenge Cup quarter-final with Sale Sharks, although Tom Farrell is eager to play after being a non-capped member of Ireland’s squad.

And despite tasting some humbling defeats to England and Wales, Friend says his players have come back strengthened by the experience.

Andy Reid Andy Friend speaking to media yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Both Aki and Roux are having regens [regenerations] this week. Quinn was in yesterday, but just to say g’day really. They’ve had a fair bit of rugby.

“Some of the other boys have too, Ultan and Jack, but it’s just about managing those fellas for the next few weeks.

“I think they have all enjoyed the experience. I think they do enjoy coming back too though. This is a hell of a group and they are very familiar with what’s going on here.”

A timely return from a shoulder injury means that Gavin Thornbury could be handed a first start since 19 January, and with Roux and Dillane boosted by their international exploits, the Connacht management have a very competitive second row to select from.

“It’s great to have Gavin back,” Friend added. “We were really disappointed with his injury, that was really heartbreaking for him. It’s good to have him back. I know he’s very keen to make an impression when he gets his chance this weekend.

“It’ll be tough though. Benetton have been unbelievable, very impressive in the way that they’ve put some really good sides away this year. The style of rugby they are playing, they’re very physical and very disciplined too. They’re going to be a huge test for us.”

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Declan Rooney

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