James Crombie/INPHO Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty both start.
Matchday 23

Carty partners Marmion as Connacht ring in the changes for Pro14 quarter-final

Kingspan Stadium hosts the provinces in the last eight of the competition on Saturday evening.

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend has made eight changes to his team for tomorrow’s Pro14 quarter-final tie away to Ulster. 

Saturday evening sees Kingspan Stadium host the provinces (5.35pm) with a place in the last four up for grabs. 

After he was rested against Munster last weekend, Jack Carty is back in the side to partner Kieran Marmion at half-back — while Caolin Blade has been named among the replacements. 

Tom Farrell is recalled to start alongside Bundee Aki at centre, and Matt Healy lines out on the wing with Stephen Fitzgerald switching to the opposite side. 

Prop Denis Buckley and hooker Dave Heffernan are recalled, while Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury take their place in the second row. 

Colby Fainga’a also returns to the back row with captain Jarrad Butler moving to number eight. 

“This is a massive game for us – knock-out rugby with the added incentive of an interpro,” said Friend.

“We said all season that we wanted to be playing at the business end of the season but now we want to go and win and get to a semi-final. I genuinely feel that we haven’t played our best rugby yet and we are constantly improving.”

Ulster are an outstanding side. They have got better and better and we are facing a much stronger side than what we played earlier in the season. Facing them on their home patch makes the challenge even greater but we are really up for that challenge.”

Friend added: “This week we have had 46 players fit and available to us. We have used 50 players throughout the season so there are disappointed boys not to be in the match day 23.

“We also had some big calls to make in the starting team, but we have picked a team that we feel can go and win this quarter final and we have a bench that gives us even more options over the 80 minutes.”

Connacht (v Ulster): 

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Stephen Fitzgerald
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoin McKeon
7. Colby Finga’a
8. Jarrad Butler (c)


16. Shane Delahunt
17. Peter McCabe
18. Conor Carey
19. Eoghan Masterson
20. Paul Boyle
21. Caolin Blade
22. Tom Daly
23. Darragh Leader

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Andy Dunne to discuss all the week’s rugby news.:

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