Bundee Aki back as Connacht face Montpellier in Galway
Ultan Dillane eases Andy Friend’s secondrow woes for Sunday’s Champions Cup clash
Bundee Aki starts for Connacht against Montpellier on Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Champions Cup Pool 5: Connacht v Montpellier, Sunday November 17th, The Sportsground (kick-off 1pm, BT Sport)
Bundee Aki is back for Connacht as they take on Top14 side Montpellier in their Champions Cup opener in Galway on Sunday afternoon.
Andy Friend’s side have been plagued by injuries during a strong start to the season - particularly in the secondrow - but they are boosted by the return of Ireland international Ultan Dillane.
Dillane is joined in the engine room by Cillian Gallagher, with Colby Fainga’a and Jarrad Butler at flanker either side of Paul Boyle. In the frontrow, Dominic Robertson-McCoy comes in at prop alongsideDenis Buckley and Tom McCartney.
Behind them Caolin Blade and Jack Carty resume their halfback partnership, with Aki joined in midfield by Kyle Godwin. Darragh Leader starts at fullback with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.
Ahead of his side’s Pool Five opener, Friend said: “We have received a boost this week with Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy returning from injury and Bundee Aki back in the starting side.
“They bring a huge amount of experience at this level and that will be invaluable to us. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday and we know the importance of getting off to a good start in this competition, especially at home.”
Connacht: Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cillian Gallagher, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle. Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Tom Daly, John Porch.
Montpellier: Anthony Bouthier; Gabriel N’gandebe, Arthur Vincent, Jan Serfontein, Yvan Reilhac; Aaron Cruden, Benoit Paillaugue (capt); Mikheil Nariashvili, Youri Delhommel, Mohamed Haouas, Nico Janse van Rensburg, Paul Willemse, Kelian Galletier, Yacouba Camara, Caleb Timu. Replacements: Bismarck Du Plessis, Grégory Fichten, Jannie Du Plessis, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Enzo Sanga, Julien Bardy, Henry Immelman, Jacques Du Plessis.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)