Clarke and Heenan to make first league starts for Connacht
Tom Court returns to Ulster side for interprovincial clash
New Connacht signing Craig Clarke (centre of picture) has been named in the secondrow for the game against Ulster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht and Ulster both make three changes to their starting lime-ups for the first interprovincial meeting of the season in the RaboDirect Pro 12 at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday evening (6.45pm).
Connacht head coach Pat Lam has included new signing Craig Clarke in the secondrow alongside skipper Michael Swift, while Clarke’s fellow New Zealander Jake Heenan comes in at blindside flanker with John Muldoon moving to number eight.
There is just one change to the backs with Fionn Carr, who missed last week’s defeat away to Cardiff, returning to right wing.
Speaking about the team selection and the upcoming fixture, Head Coach Pat Lam said:
“It’s a big boost for the team to have Craig available to start,” said Lam of the inclusion of the 30-year-old lock. “It’s been a frustrating time for him with injury but he came through the week well and is raring to go.
“Jake made a big impact coming off the bench in the last two games and his selection gives us an energetic backrow.”
After losing their opening two games in the competition, Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has made three changes to the team that lost narrowly to Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill last Friday night.
All of the changes are in the pack where Tom Court replaces Callum Black at loosehead, Iain Henderson is named in the secondrow in place of Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry is selected at openside flanker instead of Sean Doyle.
Ireland winger Craig Gilroy is named as a substitute and is in line to make his first appearance of the season, having recovered from the groin injury that has kept him out of rugby since April.
“It is great to be able to welcome players like Tom, Iain and Chris back in,” said Anscombe. “They are all Ireland internationals and their experience will be important for us this weekend against a very capable Connacht side.
“We were disappointed last weekend. However, we created more opportunities against Glasgow last Friday night than we did in four matches against them last season – we just didn’t take them. We need to be more clinical and we know that.
“This week we have trained well – the attitude has been really good and we are looking forward to this interprovincial match.”
CONNACHT: G Duffy; F Carr, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift (capt), C Clarke; J Heenan, W Faloon, J Muldoon. Replacements: S Henry, R Ah You, R Loughney, A Muldowney, G Naoupu, P O’Donohoe, C Ronaldson, D Poolman.
ULSTER: J Payne; D McIlwaine, D Cave, L Marshall, M Allen; P Jackson, I Porter; T Court, R Herring, D Fitzpatrick; J Muller (capt), I Henderson; R Wilson, C Henry, N Williams. Replacements: N Annett, K McCall, R Lutton, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, J McKinney, C Gilroy.