Bundee Aki returns to boost Connacht ahead of Leicester trip

Andy Friend welcomes back six internationals for Sunday’s trip to Welford Road

Champions Cup: Leicester Tigers v Connacht, Sunday December 19th, Welford Road (kick-off 1pm, BT Sport).

Connacht have welcomed back six internationals for their Champions Cup game against Leicester Tigers at the Sportsground on Sunday at Welford Road.

Bundee Aki starts his first game for Connacht in over two months, returning from injury to partner Sammy Arnold at centre. Tiernan O’Halloran is also included, starting at fullback with Alex Wootton and John Porch named on the wings. After coming off the bench last week, Kieran Marmion starts at scrumhalf alongside captain Jack Carty.

Three further internationals - hooker Dave Heffernan, prop Finlay Bealham and lock Ultan Dillane - are also drafted into the pack. Matthew Burke and Niall Murray make up the rest of the tight five, while the backrow is unchanged with flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver either side of number eight Jarrad Butler.


A powerful looking bench includes the likes of Tietie Tuimauga, who could make his debut if called upon, as well as Leva Fifita and Abraham Papali’i.

Commenting on the selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says: “We’re under no illusions we face one of the biggest challenges in European rugby on Sunday, but it’s also very exciting and exactly the kind of occasion you want to play in.

“We’ve brought in a lot of experience which will stand to us for a game like this, and there’s some powerful options on the bench as well. Tietie Tuimauga has settled in very well so Sunday will be a great stage for him to make his debut if called upon.”

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Alex Wootton; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Mattthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler. Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Tietie Tuimauga, Jack Aungier, Leva Fifita, Abraham Papali'I, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Kilgallen.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times