Connacht aiming to register first points as they face Benetton
Benetton a different proposition these days under Pro 14 coach of the year, Crowley
Ian Keatley: former Munster and Ireland outhalf will start for Bennetton at the Sportsground. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho
Pro 14: Connacht v Benetton
Kick-off: 7.35pm, Saturday. Venue: Sportsground. On TV: Live TG4.
Two sides hoping to bounce back from defeat on the opening weekend of the season, the Italians beaten by champions Leinster and Connacht second best after their visit to Scarlets.
Benetton arrive with high hopes for this season having announced that New Zealander and Pro 1 4 coach of the year last season, Kieran Crowley, will continue to be their head coach until June 2022.
The 1987 World Cup winner from New Zealand arrived in Treviso in summer 2016 and led Benetton to the quarter-finals last May for the first time in the club’s history, giving Munster a decent run but falling just short of the semi-finals.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the side with backs Darragh Leader and Peter Robb as well as backrower Paul Boyle all coming in. Boyle starts in the pack in place of Colby Fainga’a, who suffered a knee injury in the second half of last week’s defeat.
Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade continue as the starting halfback pairing with Kieran Marmion and Tom Farrell among the replacements.
“We have made three changes to our starting team from last weekend. Some of those were down to one or two injuries we picked up and some are down to the depth we have in the squad,” said Friend.
“This week we have named Sean Masterson among the replacements. He is an excellent young backrow who has impressed already for the Connacht Eagles side.”
Former Munster and Ireland’s Ian Keatley is again the starting outhalf for the visitors with Ian McKinley on the bench.
CONNACH: T O’Halloran, D Leader, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy, C Fitzgerald, C Blade, (1-8) P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham, G Thornbury, Q Roux, E Masterson, J Butler (Capt), P Boyle. Replacements: S Delahunt, D Buckley, D Robertson-McCoy, U Dillane, S Masterson, K Marmion, T Farrell, S Fitzgerald.
BENETTON: L Sperandio; L Sarto, J Riera, A Sgarbi (C), M Ioane; I Keatley, L Petrozzi; D Appiah, T Baravalle, M Parri, N Cannone, E Snyman, M Lazzaroni, G Pettinelli, T Halafihi. Replacements: E Makelara, C Traore, F Alongi, M Fuser, L Manni, C Trussardi, I McKinley, I Brex.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (SARU)