Connacht's record tryscorer Matt Healy returns to the starting XV for clash with the Southern Kings
Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy has recovered from injury to take his place on the wing against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Sunday (kick-off 1pm Irish time).
Healy returns to a back three that includes Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back. With Bundee Aki unavailable through his involvement in the November internationals, Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell form the midfield while the half back pairing sees out half Jack Carty and Caolin Blade renew their partnership.
Loosehead Denis Buckley, tighthead Conor Carey and hooker with Shane Delahunt make up the front row trio. In the second row Ultan Dillane and James Cannon are named in the starting XV while Gavin Thornbury has returned from injury and is named among the replacements.
The back row includes Sean O’Brien and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively while Captain Jarrad Butler starts again at number 8.
Naming his side, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: "The squad has travelled well. We left Dublin on Sunday morning and have been based out of Cape Town all week. The facilities have been top class and so too has the attitude of the players so that has allowed us to get a lot of work done. We have a squad of 25 in South Africa for the two weeks so that gives us some flexibility for the two games”, Friend said.
"Matt Healy has returned after missing a couple of games and he is fully fit and ready to start on the wing. The other good news on the injury front is the return of Gavin Thornbury who had a more long term injury but is back now and reading to go also. We will start Gavin on the bench but no doubt he will feature during the 80 minutes.
"The Kings have been really impressive this season especially when they are at home in Port Elizabeth. They put 31 points on Leinster and 34 points on Scarlets and were unlucky to lose both games. They put 38 points on Glasgow and won that game so their form against three of the top teams in the Pro14 has been really impressive and we know how dangerous they can be. If they get space out wide, they will punish any team and we will need a big performance to overcome them”.
Connacht: (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Darragh Leader.