Connacht Scrum Half Caolin Blade is set to captain Connacht as they travel to Kingspan Stadium to take on Ulster in the PRO14 on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm). Blade has been a central figure for Connacht of late having taken part in all of the province’s 12 games of the current campaign. The 25 year old Monivea man will continue his half back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald for the trip to Belfast.
Elsewhere in the back line, Peter Robb has returned from injury to partner Tom Daly in midfield while Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full back in a back three that includes John Porch and Matt Healy on the wings.
Up front, Paddy McAllister is another to return from injury in time for the interpro clash. The loosehead prop joins a front row with hooker Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
With Quinn Roux picking up a hand injury against Munster that will likely keep him out of action until the end of January, Andy Friend has been forced to make a change to his second row. Ultan Dillane will line up with Joe Maksymiw who came off the bench last weekend with 20 year old Roscommon man Niall Murray named among the replacements.
In the back row, Robin Copeland comes into the starting team at number 8. He will be flanked by Eoin McKeon and Paul Boyle at blindside and openside respectively.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have had a short turnaround from the Munster game, and with Christmas in the middle of that, there isn’t a huge volume of training the squad can get through. We are boosted by the return of Paddy McAllister, Matt Healy and Peter Robb, and those fresh legs are important as we head into the tenth weekend in a row of Pro14 and Champions Cup action”.
“Ulster have a fantastic record at home and are unbeaten in Kingspan since we defeated them some 14 months ago. So, we’re looking forward to another competitive interpro game in front of a passionate home crowd.”
Connacht Matchday Squad V Ulster (Fri 27 Dec, 7:35pm)
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt) (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Kyle Godwin, Stephen Fitzgerald.