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Dublin: 10°C Friday 7 May 2021
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Ulster out to get back to winning ways after crushing news on Coetzee exit

Both sides are coming off the back of consecutive defeats in the Champions Cup.

Jarrad Butler and Alan O'Connor captain the teams today.
Jarrad Butler and Alan O'Connor captain the teams today.
Image: INPHO

ULSTER AND CONNACHT come into this inter-provincial tie [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/TG4] after rather similar frustrations in Europe over the past fortnight.

Both sides lost both of their back-to-back Champions Cup ties to leave themselves out of the race for quarter-final spots, but both will feel they could be reflecting on two wins.

There is one big difference between the two camps, of course. Ulster have just confirmed that their best player, Marcell Coetzee, is leaving at the end of this season. The news was announced yesterday and was obviously met with dismay in some quarters. 

But Ulster need to ensure any disappointment doesn’t linger today as they look to get back to winning ways after consecutive defeats in Europe. 

Dan McFarland’s side lost at home to Toulouse in a game that was partly decided but the individual brilliance of Cheslin Kolbe before agonisingly missing out away to Gloucester due to the concession of an 85th-minute try.

Having had an attacking scrum in the Gloucester half in the 79th minute, it was a harrowing experience for Ulster to lose that one.

McFarland will have rallied his players for this inter-pro visit to Galway, keen to ensure they cut this losing run at two games and win at the Sportsground for the first time since 2015.

For their part, Connacht will also have had a sense of frustration about their opening fortnight in the condensed Champions Cup. They nearly upset the odds in Paris on the opening weekend as they ran Racing 92 close, then there was the disappointment of a home defeat to Pat Lam’s Bristol last Sunday.

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A yellow card for Bundee Aki in the second half proved extremely costly as Bristol scored 14 points during that window to essentially decide the game. 

Again, the return to Pro14 action is a chance for Andy Friend’s men to kick back into winning ways.

Ulster are still without Coetzee due to a head injury and he is one of many missing key men, with the likes of Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey having their minutes managed.

It’s still a mobile-looking Ulster selection, while wing Ben Moxham – who was part of the Ireland U20s squad earlier this year – is set for his debut off the bench. 

Connacht also have a much-changed team with Eoghan Masterson set for his 100th cap as captain Jarrad Butler, Shane Delahunt, Quinn Roux, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, and Tiernan O’Halloran make their returns to the starting XV.

Connacht:

15. Tiernan O’Halloran 
14. John Porch 
13. Sammy Arnold 
12. Tom Daly 
11. Matt Healy 
10. Jack Carty 
9. Caolin Blade 

1. Denis Buckley 
2. Shane Delahunt 
3. Finlay Bealham 
4. Ultan Dillane 
5. Quinn Roux 
6. Eoghan Masterson 
7. Conor Oliver 
8. Jarrad Butler (captain)

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
19. Gavin Thornbury
20. Sean Masterson
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Sean O’Brien
23. Colm de Buitléar

Ulster:

15. Michael Lowry
14. Craig Gilroy
13. James Hume
12. Stewart Moore
11. Ethan McIlroy
10. Ian Madigan
9. Alby Mathewson

1. Kyle McCall
2. John Andrew
3. Tom O’Toole
4. Alan O’Connor (captain)
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Greg Jones
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Nick Timoney

Replacements:

16. Bradley Roberts
17. Andrew Warwick
18. Marty Moore
19. David O’Connor
20. Matty Rea
21. David Shanahan
22. Ben Moxham
23. Matt Faddes

Referee: Sean Gallagher [IRFU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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