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Connacht boosted by availability of Ireland trio as Bundee Aki set to make debut

Kieran Marmion, Darragh Leader and Rodney Ah You have been released by Joe Schimdt.

Bundee Aki will make his Connacht debut in Wales.
Bundee Aki will make his Connacht debut in Wales.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Pat Lam has named Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You in his side to face Guinness Pro12 leaders Ospreys on Friday evening after the pair were temporarily released from Ireland duties.

Darragh Leader has also been made available but is named on the bench for the game at the Liberty Stadium.

In all, Lam has made nine changes to the team that suffered defeat at Sandy Park last week with new recruit Bundee Aki set to make his debut in midfield alongside Craig Ronaldson.

The former Chiefs back signed a three-year deal with the Westerners in April and joined up with the squad last week following the culmination of his ITM Cup campaign with Counties Manukau.

“With Robbie (Henshaw) away in Ireland camp Bundee (Aki) gets his opportunity a bit earlier than expected after just arriving in the country ten days ago,” Lam said.

“We were initially looking at Bundee for our next game with Zebre but it’s great that he’s been keen to get going as soon as possible. He’s been very open to learning quickly in training and has made a big effort in getting to know his team mates.  There’ll undoubtedly be a good bit of spotlight on him tomorrow night against Ospreys, but as always it is only a team effort that can lead to a positive outcome for us.”

Wing Matt Healy and out-half Jack Carty are both recalled to the backline while 22-year-old Shane Layden is given the nod at fullback for his second start of the season.

Marmion, Ah You and Leader have been in Carton House this week as the Irish panel prepare for the forthcoming November internationals but all three have been given permission to make the trip to Wales.

Connacht currently lie fifth in the Pro12 after losing just one of their opening six games but will come up against an Ospreys side who have yet to slip-up this term. However, much like the Irish province, they’ve been hit by international call-ups.

Out-half Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones and Rhys Webb are among the players absent for the Welsh side.

“We’re going down to play the top team in the league on their home ground. It is our biggest challenge of the season so far. Ospreys are a well-coached, well-drilled side with strike power all over the field,” Lam continued.

“We know we will have to raise our standards considerably from last week, particularly in defence. But we’re all focused on the process of picking up as many league points as we can.”

Connacht

15. Shane Layden
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Bundee Aki
12. Craig Ronaldson
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Jason Harris-Wright
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Mick Kearney
5. Quinn Roux
6. John Muldoon (captain)
7. Eoin McKeon
8. George Naoupu

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Jamie Dever
18. JP Cooney
19. Andrew Browne
20. Willie Faloon
21. Ian Porter
22. Dave McSharry
23. Darragh Leader

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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