Connacht make eight changes to play Zebre in final game of season

Andy Friend has opted for a blend of youth and experience for the URC match

Andy Friend has opted for a blend of youth and experience in making eight changes to Connacht’s starting XV, and restoring another six players to the replacements, for their final game of the season tomorrow against Zebre Parma at The Sportsground (k/o 5pm).

Dylan Tierney-Martin is handed his first Connacht start at hooker, while there are also starts for Seán Masterson at openside flanker and Oran McNulty at full-back. Masterson is accompanied in the back row by his brother Eoghan, with Cian Prendergast moving to number “8”, Niall Murray starts in the second-row, while Kieran Marmion and captain Jack Carty are restored at half-back.

Included on the bench are departing players Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i and Sammy Arnold, and as is tradition in Connacht, all the departing players will be presented to the supporters after the final whistle – the first time since pre-Covid that such a presentation will be able to take place.

“Even though we missed out on the playoffs we have plenty to play for tomorrow,” maintained Friend. “Finishing with a 50 per cent win record is important, but more so is finishing on a high at our home ground – both for our playing group and our supporters.

“The likes of Dylan, Seán and Oran all deserve their opportunity tomorrow and I know the departing players involved will savour the experience as well.”

Connacht: Oran McNulty; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Seán Masterson, Cian Prendergast.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier, Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali'i, Colm Reilly, Conor Fitzgerald, Sammy Arnold.