Bundee Aki set to start for Connacht after release from Ireland camp

Meanwhile, second row Oisin Dowling gets his first start.

Bundee Aki (file pic).
Bundee Aki (file pic).
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

BUNDEE AKI has been included in the starting XV for Connacht ahead of their Pro14 clash away to Benetton (kick-off: 5.30pm Irish time).

The 30-year-old centre has been released from the Ireland camp in order to feature against the Italian side.

Aki played in last week’s bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues, and remains in the team, as Andy Friend’s side aim for their third successive victory in the competition.

There is also a first start for 23-year-old second row Oisin Dowling, who twice previously featured from the bench.

He is joined by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, with Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham completing the tight five. 

There are no changes to the back row, with Paul Boyle at number 8 alongside flankers Eoghan Masterson and captain Jarrad Butler.

Kieran Marmion will play alongside Conor Fitzgerald at half-back, while Tom Daly joins Aki in the centre.

Tiernan O’Halloran makes his first start in almost two months at full-back, with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.

An experienced bench includes centurions Denis Buckley, Caolin Blade and Jack Carty.

Ahead of the game, Friend expressed satisfaction with the options available to him.

“This is a big day for Oisin getting his first start, and with Bundee released from Ireland duty and the likes of Tiernan and Kieran coming into the team also they bring a lot of experience with them. Overall we’ve named a very strong squad that is capable of keeping our winning run going.”

The coach continued: “I said at the start of this block of games that we realistically need five wins from five to have a chance of finishing top of the Conference, so this game is just as important as what’s gone before. Italy is always a tough place to get a win and we’ve seen from their last few performances that they’re getting closer to that first victory this season, so we have to be at our best to make sure that doesn’t come against us.”

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Connacht team to face Bennetton:

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Daly
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Paddy McAllister
2. Shane Delahunt
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Oisin Dowling
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler (C)
8. Paul Boyle


16. Jonny Murphy
17. Denis Buckley
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
19. Niall Murray
20. Sean Masterson
21. Caolin Blade
22. Jack Carty
23. John Porch

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Paul Fennessy

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