Internationals return for Connacht’s Challenge Cup clash

‘The home advantage will be big for us. Our supporters have been fantastic this season’

 Bundee Aki starts for Connacht against Gloucester this weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Bundee Aki starts for Connacht against Gloucester this weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Ireland internationals Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion have returned to the Connacht starting XV to face Gloucester in the Challenge Cup quarter-final in the Sportsground on Saturday.

Fellow internationals Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane also start, with the Six Nations trophies to be displayed to the crowd prior to the 1pm kick-off.

Jack Carty starts at outhalf alongside Kieran Marmion while Ballina native Dave Heffernan is named as replacement hooker - both will make their 100th appearance for the province.

Aki’s return sees him renew his centre partnership with Tom Farrell. They are included in a back line that features an unchanged back three of Tiernan O’Halloran at fullback and Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings. Healy has already managed eights tries so far in this year’s competition.

Speaking ahead of the game Connacht head coach Kieran Keane said his side will face a massive challenge against the English side; “We have had a really close look at them and how they have been playing. I think they have a very similar approach to the game as we do so it’s going to be a tough game for both sides and both teams will fancy their chances”, Keane said.

“The home advantage will be big for us. Our supporters have been fantastic this season and have made the Sportsground a really difficult place to travel for away teams. I know they will give us another lift again tomorrow and the boys are determined to give them something to shout about.”

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux; Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

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