Peter O’Mahony returns for Munster’s trip to Connacht

Chris Farrell also starts as both sides look to follow up last weekend’s inter-pro victories

Peter O’Mahony returns to captain Munster against Connacht on Saturday night. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony returns to captain Munster against Connacht on Saturday night. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Pro14 Connacht v Munster, Saturday January 5th, The Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm - eir, TG4)

Peter O’Mahony returns to captain a strong Munster side for Saturday night’s Pro14 clash with Connacht in Galway.

O’Mahony missed last weekend’s victory over Leinster but returns for Johann van Graan’s side at the Sportsground. There is also a place in the starting XV for Chris Farrell, who bids to prove his fitness with the Six Nations looming.

Skipper O’Mahony is joined in the backrow by the returning Tommy O’Donnell and Arno Botha, with Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan in the frontrow.

Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne resume their secondrow partnership, meaning Billy Holland will have to wait before making his 200th provincial appearance from the replacements bench.

Conor Murray starts on the bench meaning Alby Mathewson takes the number nine jersey, with Joey Carbery retaining his place at outhalf.

The fit again Farrell starts at 13 outside Dan Goggin, with Alex Wootton, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway in the back three.

Meanwhile Denis Buckley is set to make his 150th appearance for the hosts, as Connacht look to follow up on last weekend’s win over Ulster.

Buckley is joined by Dave Heffernan - who captains the side in the absence of the injured Jarrad Butler - and Dominic Robertson Mc-Coy in the frontrow.

Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury continue at lock, meaning Ultan Dillane must settle for a place on the bench, with Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a and Eoghan Masterson in the backrow.

In the backline Caolin Blade and Jack Carty resume in the halfbacks, with Tom Daly and Tom Farrell in midfield. Matt Healy, Cian Kelleher and Darragh Leader start in the back three.

Ahead of Saturday night’s fixture, Connacht coach Andy Friend said: “This block of three interpros is a tough series of fixtures and has a huge bearing on the overall context of the season.

“We were disappointed to lose narrowly to Leinster in Dublin but we showed great character to bounce back and beat a really tough Ulster side last weekend. This clash with Munster is a big game and we will have to put in a huge performance to get a result on Saturday.

“Commenting on his team selection, Friend added; “Dave Heffernan takes over the captaincy from Jarrad this week as he is carrying a knock. It’s also a huge occasion for Denis Buckley and his family as he will play his 150th game in a Connacht jersey.”

Connacht: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (capt), Dominic Robertson Mc-Coy; Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux; Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Eoghan Masterson. Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Angus Lloyd, David Horwitz, Colm DeBuitlear.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sammy Arnold.

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