Connacht use visit of Benetton to give as many players as possible match time

Italians travel to Galway without the 10 internationals named in Franco Smith’s Azzurri team to face Wales

Connacht’s Caolin Blade: set to play at scrumhalf against Benetton. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht v Benetton

The Sportsground, 7.35pm - Live TG4, eir sport

This rescheduled fixture might not quicken the pulse but it matters to Connacht coach Andy Friend after the Ospreys game fell foul of coronavirus.

“Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week,” said Friend. “In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got seven weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts for as many players as possible.”


There is one change with Caolin Blade slipping into scrumhalf after Kieran Marmion was held by Ireland despite missing out on the match-day squad to play Scotland.

The Italians travel to Galway without the 10 internationals named in Franco Smith’s Azzurri team to face Wales.

Nothing short of a bonus point will suffice as Connacht seek to transform a middling campaign to contender status. This remains a realistic goal in 2021, with Paul Boyle apparently shaping into a genuine leader in a backrow alongside Sean O'Brien and Conor Oliver that screams potential. It is also worth peering in on the development of burly young tighthead Jack Aungier.

Also, Ian Keatley returns to The Sportsground as an inside centre.

CONNACHT:John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Sammy Arnold, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier; Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury; Sean O'Brien, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (capt). Replacements:Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Jarrad Butler, Colm Reilly, Sean O'Brien, Matt Healy.

BENETTON: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti, Ian Keatley, Tommaso Menoncello; Dewaldt Duvenage (capt), Callum Braley; Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle, Filippo Alongi; Irné Herbst, Federico Ruzza; Giovanni Pettinelli, Marco Barbini, Toa Halafihi. Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Ivan Nemer, Tiziano Pasquali, Riccardo Favretto, Alberto Sgarbi, Manuel Zuliani, Luca Petrozzi, Joaquin Riera.

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU).

Prediction: Connacht win.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent