Ben O’Donnell returns to Connacht XV to host the Dragons

Matthew Burke and Paul Boyle have also been brought into Andy Friend’s team

Ben O’Donnell starts on the wing for Connacht against the Dragons at The Sportsground on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Matthew Burke, Paul Boyle and Ben O'Donnell have been drafted into the starting XV for Saturday's URC meeting with the Dragons at The Sportsground (kick-off 5.15pm, live on TG4 and Premier Sports) following on from the 34-7 win over the Bulls last weekend which welcomed supporters back to their home ground.

It's a first appearance of the season for O'Donnell, who joins winger Mack Hansen and fullback Tiernan O'Halloran in the back three. The remainder of the backline is unchanged for the third straight game, with Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty at halfback and Tom Daly and Tom Farrell in midfield.

Ballinrobe man Matthew Burke comes into the frontrow with Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while locks Oisin Dowling and Ultan Dillane also start together for the third week in a row.

The side is completed by flankers Cian Prendergast and captain Jarrad Butler, with Boyle wearing the number 8 shirt.


"Last week was very pleasing not just because of the result, but the performance gave everyone the confidence that we're heading in the right direction," said head coach Andy Friend. "We know more than anyone that we now need to replicate that level consistently. Dragons are a tough team to play against and showed that against Leinster last week, so we'll need to be at the top of our game."

CONNACHT: Tiernan O'Halloran; Ben O'Donnell, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Oisin Dowling, Ultan Dillane; Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Leva Fifita, Conor Oliver, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Sammy Arnold.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times