Saturday 24 February 2018

Connacht v Ulster team news: Pat Lam makes 12 changes from Newcastle defeat

Connacht head coach Pat Lam
Connacht head coach Pat Lam

Connacht head coach Pat Lam and Ulster boss Les Kiss have named their sides for the St Stephen's Day clash at the Sportsgrounds (kick-off 6pm).

Lam makes 12 personnel changes and two positional changes to his team.

Niyi Adeolokun, who switches from the left to right wing, and November Player of the Month Craig Ronaldson are the only two remaining from the backline that started against Newcastle on Sunday.

Galway man Tiernan O’Halloran returns to take his place at full back while Ronaldson is joined in the centre by the returning Bundee Aki. Matt Healy returns to start on the left wing while the half back pairing sees Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion line out together for the seventh time this season.

Up front, only Eoghan Masterson remains from last week, switching to Number 8 to allow captain John Muldoon return at blindside flanker, while Academy flanker James Connolly completes the back row.

Ultan Dillane and Aly Muldowney form the second row partnership behind the new front row trio of Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan and Ireland international Nathan White.

On the bench, both Ronan Loughney and AJ MacGinty have been passed fit for inclusion in this week’s match day squad. Academy players Shane Delahunt, Sean O’Brien and Rory Parata are also included among the replacements.

Meanwhile, Rob Herring replaces Rory Best as hooker and captain, as the latter gains a well-earned break. Andy Warwick will make his fifth start of the season at loosehead prop, with Wiehahn Herbst anchoring the other side of the scrum. Alan O'Connor and Franco van der Merwe continue their second row partnership from the back-to-back wins over Toulouse.

There is one change in the back row, with Nick Williams coming in for Roger Wilson at number 8, while Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy are retained as the other loose forwards.

Rory Scholes is the only newcomer to the backline, replacing the injured Craig Gilroy on the left wing. Andrew Trimble is named on the right flank and Louis Ludik will again line out at fullback.

Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will start together in midfield for the third consecutive outing, with Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson in their usual half back positions.

Stephen Mulholland will make just his second senior appearance if called upon from the bench, while the dynamic John Andrew will provide cover for Herring in the middle of the scrum. Callum Black, Ricky Lutton and Roger Wilson are the other forward replacements.

Experienced half back duo Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys are also included in the match day squad, along with talented young outside back, Sammy Arnold.

Connacht: (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; (1-8) Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (captain), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: (16-23) Shane Delahunt, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, Sean O’Brien, Ian Porter, AJ MacGinty, Rory Parata.

Ulster: (15-9): Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; (1-8): Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring (captain), Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O'Connor, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Nick Williams;

Replacements: (16-23): John Andrew, Calum Black, Ricky Lutton, Steven Mulholland, Roger Wilson, Paul Marshall, Iain Humphreys, Sammy Arnold.

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