Finlay Bealham is back for Connacht. James Crombie/INPHO
A Friend in need

Hansen and Bealham back for Connacht as Sharks send their second-string

Andy Friend’s side are 13th in the URC table and badly need a win.

CONNACHT BOSS ANDY Friend has welcomed Ireland internationals Mack Hansen and Finlay Bealham back into his starting XV for tomorrow’s crucial URC clash with the Sharks at the Sportsground [KO 5.15pm, RTÉ/URC TV]. 

Hansen and Bealham have recovered from illness to start, as has back row Josh Murphy.

However, Ireland centre Bundee Aki misses out on a game that Connacht are desperate to win in order to keep their URC play-off ambitions alive. Connacht say Aki is working his way back to full fitness after a couple of injury niggles and illness in recent times.

Their hopes for this game have been boosted by the Sharks leaving all of their big-name Springboks at home, while director of rugby Neil Powell hasn’t travelled to Ireland either as their first-choice team prepare for the Champions Cup clash against Bordeaux in two weekends’ time. The Sharks are instead led by their Currie Cup coach, Joey Mongalo.

Connacht’s Friend has made nine changes to the side that lost to Leinster last weekend, with Bealham part of an all-new front row alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.

Second row Oisín Dowling comes into the team, while impressive 21-year-old Darragh Murray retains his place in the engine room. Conor Oliver joins Murphy in the back row along with Shamus Hurley-Langton.

Kieran Marmion rotates into the team in place of Caolin Blade at scrum-half, while Jack Carty remains as captain in the number 10 shirt.

With David Hawkshawk sidelined by injury, there’s a fifth senior start for Cathal Forde at inside centre as he teams up with Tom Farrell, while Hansen joins John Porch and Tiernan O’Halloran in the back three. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks’ much-changed matchday 23 includes three players set for their debuts off the bench – Ockie Barnard, Corne Rahl, and Ethan Hooker – as Reniel Hugo captains the team from the second row. 


  • 15. Tiernan O’Halloran
  • 14. John Porch
  • 13. Tom Farrell
  • 12. Cathal Forde
  • 11. Mack Hansen
  • 10. Jack Carty (captain)
  • 9. Kieran Marmion
  • 1. Denis Buckley
  • 2. Shane Delahunt
  • 3. Finlay Bealham
  • 4. Oisín Dowling
  • 5. Darragh Murray
  • 6. Josh Murphy
  • 7. Conor Oliver
  • 8. Shamus Hurley-Langton


  • 16. Dylan Tierney-Martin
  • 17. Jordan Duggan
  • 18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
  • 19. Leva Fifita
  • 20. Cian Prendergast
  • 21. Caolin Blade
  • 22. Conor Fitzgerald
  • 23. Byron Ralston


  • 15. Anthony Volmink
  • 14. Yaw Penxe
  • 13. Murray Koster
  • 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg
  • 11. Marnus Potgieter
  • 10. Nevaldo Fleurs
  • 9. Cameron Wright
  • 1. Ntuthuko Mchunu
  • 2. Fezo Mbatha
  • 3. Carlü Sadie
  • 4. Thembelani Bholi
  • 5. Reniel Hugo (captain)
  • 6. James Venter
  • 7. Henco Venter
  • 8. Celimpilo Gumede


  • 16. Kerron van Vuuren
  • 17. Dian Bleuler
  • 18. Khutha Mchunu
  • 19. Ockie Barnard
  • 20. Corne Rahl
  • 21. Grant Williams
  • 22. Lionel Cronje
  • 23. Ethan Hooker

Referee: Adam Jones [WRU].

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