Finlay Bealham to bring up Connacht century against Zebre
Michael Bradley returns to the Sportsground with Carlo Canna named in starting XV
Finlay Bealham will make his 100th Connacht appearance against Zebre on Friday. Photograph: Bily Stickland/Inpho
Finlay Bealham will make his 100th Connacht appearance as they welcome Zebre to the Sportsground on Friday night (7.35ko).
He is one of four changes to the side which beat the Ospreys last weekend, with Darragh Leader and Gavin Thornbury both named in the starting XV.
Kieran Keane has also picked Sean O’Brien, with the number eight making his return to action after picking up a shoulder injury against the Southern Kings last September.
Keane also has a strong bench to call upon, with Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux named among the replacements.
On bringing up his century for the province, Bealham said: “To be in that bracket of players that have reached the 100 appearance milestone is something I’m really honoured to be a part of.
“From my family’s perspective, they’re really proud. To walk out there for the hundredth time in front of a Sportsground crowd in the great atmosphere they always create is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Meanwhile Zebre coach Michael Bradley - who was in charge in Galway from 2003-2010 - has been able to name three of the Italian side beaten by Ireland in his starting XV, including outhalf Carlo Canna.
Connacht: Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade, Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Naulia Dawai, Sean O’Brien (captain). Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Pita Ahki.
Zebre: Ciaran Gaffney, Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Faialaga Afamasaga, Rory Parata, Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani; Cruze Ah-Nau, Oliviero Fabiani, Eduardo Bello, James Tucker, George Biagi (captain), Johan Meyer, Maxime Mbandà,Renato Giammarioli. Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Andrea De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, David Sisi, Derick Minnie, Riccardo Raffaele, Serafin Bordoli, Giovanbattista Venditti.