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Carty shakes off knock to start but Connacht make 11 changes for key trip to Zebre

Jack Carty is partnered by Caolin Blade at half-back, while Peter Robb comes in for his third start of the season.

Ultan Dillane and captain Jarrad Butler return to Andy Friend's starting XV.
Ultan Dillane and captain Jarrad Butler return to Andy Friend's starting XV.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CONNACHT HAVE RESHUFFLED the deck after last weekend’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat to Sale, with head coach Andy Friend making 11 changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Guinness Pro14 clash with Zebre in Parma [TG4, eir Sport, 17:30].

Captain Jarrad Butler is recalled at number eight in a complete overhaul of the back row from last week, where he’ll be flanked by Eoin McKeon at blindside and Colby Fainga’a at openside.

Gavin Thornbury is one of only four players to retain his place and is joined in the second row by Ultan Dillane, while props Dennis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy are selected on either side of Dave Heffernan at hooker.

The half-back pairing sees Caolin Blade replace Kieran Marmion at scrum-half, while the in-form Jack Carty has shaken off the arm injury that forced his replacement last weekend to retain his berth at 10.

Matt Healy and Peter Robb after the game Matt Healy and Peter Robb both start this Saturday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Peter Robb makes his third start of the season at 12 alongside Tom Farrell, while Darragh Leader shifts from fullback to wing. He’s joined in the back three by Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy.

“We have picked a strong side and a side capable of going to Zebre and winning the game,” said Connacht boss friend, for whose side Saturday’s encounter will go a long way toward determining whether they reach the Pro14 play-offs.

“We are fully aware of the dangers that Zebre can present, particularly when they are at home. There are a number of our boys who were not involved in Europe last weekend, so they are coming back in fresh after that break and that brings more energy to the group.

We said all along that we want to be in the knockout stages of the Pro14 and with three games to go, our destiny is still in our own hands. If we keep winning we will be in that playoff spot so that is our sole focus away to Zebre on Saturday.

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Connacht (v Zebre):

Tiernan O’Halloran
Darragh Leader
Tom Farrell
Peter Robb
Matt Healy
Jack Carty
Caolin Blade

Denis Buckley
Dave Heffernan
Dominic Robertson-McCoy
Ultan Dillane
Gavin Thornbury
Eoin McKeon
Colby Fainga’a
Jarrad Butler (Captain)

Replacements:

Shane Delahunt
Peter McCabe
Conan O’Donnell
Joe Maksymiw
Robin Copeland
Kieran Marmion
Tom Daly
Cian Kelleher

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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