Darren Cave to join the Ulster 200 club in Connacht clash
Tiernan O’Halloran comes back into the Connacht side after signing a new contract
Ulster’s Darren Cave will earn his 200th cap for the province in their Pro14 clash with Connacht. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho
Connacht v Ulster
Venue: Sportsground, Galway
Kick off: 7.45pm
On TV: TG4 from 7.15pm, BBC2 from 7.30pm
CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Furlong and now Tiernan O’Halloran – who signed with Connacht on Friday until 2020 – gives lie to the notion that players ever want to leave their province or country.
And what a sleight on Connacht it was to hold the misplaced assumption that a born and bred Clifden player would dash to Munster because Simon Zebo was leaving.
Anyway O’Halloran is back with Connacht at fullback as Ulster come to Galway for the first of the festive interprovincial meetings. He is joined by a pacey backline with Niyi Adeolokun and four try Matt Healy either side. Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion form the half back pairing after Marmion was rested in the win against Brive.
In the pack Denis Coulson comes in at loose head in place of the injured Denis Buckley and in the back-row flanker Jarrad Butler returns from an injury he picked up beating Munster in October.
Darren Cave earns his 200th Ulster cap, which should give Irish centre Jared Payne some hopeful thoughts. Cave also spent many months on the sidelines earlier this year with a head injury and has made a good recovery.
Andrew Trimble returns to the wing with Craig Gilroy and Jacob Stockdale in at fullback.
It will be John Cooney’s first game in the Sportsground since he left Connacht for Ulster last summer. He partners outhalf Peter Nelson, while there are also starts for Matthew Dalton and Nick Timmoney in the pack.
Connacht have installed additional terracing to accommodate the ticket demand with coach Kieran Keane hoping the home crowd can become the 16th man.
“That has a huge impact on players.” said Keane. “That can create an eight or 10 point turn around. Just look how the players responded last week and the night we played Munster. We want to recreate that atmosphere and that performance again on Saturday.”
Ulster arrives to Galway forewarned as Connacht showed with the 20-16 win over Munster in November that Keane referred to, the bigger the scalp the better they perform.
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeleokun, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Coulson, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (c).
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Naulia Dawai, James Mitchell, Eoin Griffin, Darragh Leader.
ULSTER: Jacob Stockdale, Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble, Peter Nelson, John Cooney; Andy Warwick, John Andrew, Wiehahn Herbst, Matthew Dalton, Robbie Diack, Iain Henderson (c), Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Schalk van der Merwe, Ross Kane, Matthew Rea, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Rob Lyttle.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).
Verdict: Home win.