Monday 23 April 2018

Kieran Marmion and Jake Heenan back to boost Connacht's Challenge Cup charge

Kieran Marmion scores the only try of the game in Connacht’s win over Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran Marmion scores the only try of the game in Connacht’s win over Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Connacht have been boosted by the return of Jake Heenan and Kieran Marmion ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Grenoble.

However, the visit to France will come too soon for out-half Jack Carty, tighthead prop Nathan White and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran who will miss out despite positive prognosis on their returns to play.

Carty has been given clearance to return to modified contact training as he recovers from the ruptured spleen he suffered on a waterslide in Dubai, while White is still working through the return to play protocols after suffering a concussion against Leinster. O’Halloran is recovering from a quad tear, but head coach Pat Lam is hopeful that he will be out for less than the initially feared five weeks.

Carty is set to return during the Pro12 run-in, but his absence means Shane O'Leary is likely to start alongside Marmion at half-back this weekend.

Marmion injured his quad during kicking training ahead of the defeat to Ulster last Friday at the same time as O’Halloran, while Heenan cried off from the Leinster win before kick-off.

Their return is good news ahead of the province’s trip to face Bernard Jackman’s side at the Stade des Alpes.

“It is a boost,” Lam said. “Kieran was going to play last week but he felt his quad in kicking practise. He’s available, which is great.”

The head coach believes that the province’s form and position in second on the Guinness Pro12 table means the squad is in a good place ahead of Saturday’s key game.

“There’s a whole lot of confidence, right through the squad; the way we run pre-season and how John Muldoon runs the squad,” he said.

“When you set your goals at the start of the year; Champions Cup qualification and winning the Challenge Cup were up there.

“This game for us is no different from Ulster, Leinster and another opportunity to perform as a team, season coming to an end and this is an opportunity to play together.

“We look at Grenoble, they like to move the ball with Bernard Jackman in charge and it should be a great game.”

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