Kieran Marmion returns as Irish contingent named in Connacht XV
Loan signing Stephen Fitzgerald will make his first Connacht start against the Cheetahs
Connacht take on the Toyota Cheetahs at the Sportsground on Saturday, kick-off is at 5.30pm. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Andy Friend’s side is also boosted by the return from injury of Kieran Marmion who is named among the replacements.
Captain Jarrad Butler is again named at number eight in a backrow that includes flankers Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a. Dillane, who impressed off the bench against Scotland in the Six Nations last week, is partnered in the secondrow by James Cannon. Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham complete the pack in the frontrow.
In the backs, Caolin Blade and Jack Carty renew their halfback partnership while Tom Daly starts alongside Tom Farrell in midfield. In the back three there’s a first Connacht start for loan signing Stephen Fitzgerald on the wing, with Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Darragh Leader at fullback.
Having played, and beaten, the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein before Christmas, Friend is well aware of the attacking threat they will bring to Galway:
“Since we played them earlier in the season they have been improving steadily and have the results to show for it. They are real contenders in the conference now, so we know the important of this game in the context of the overall season.
“They are a really hard team to play against and even trying to review them can be difficult. They seem to play so off the cuff that it can be difficult to predict what they are going to do next. We know the threat they pose in attack so we will face a huge challenge”.
CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).