Lions duo to face-off in URC debuts
British & Irish Lion centre Aki to make first start for Connacht this campaign. Aki featured at 12 in the final Test against the Springboks back in August and will return for Connacht as they take on Munster at Thomond Park. He starts at 12, partnering with Sammy Arnold in an experienced midfield for the Westerners.
Meanwhile Beirne, who also had an excellent tour, will start for Munster in the second row alongside fellow Ireland international Jean Kleyn. Munster are reeling from the loss of giant Springboks lock RG Snyman who suffered a fresh ACL injury last weekend. Beirne, who is more usually found on the flank, may well himself deployed in the engine room more regularly as the season wears on.
“There’s no getting away from the fact last week wasn’t good enough, so now it’s up to us all to put in the type of performance we know they’re capable of,” said Connacht Rugby Head Coach Andy Friend. “Training this week has been good and Bundee’s return is a boost as he’ll give us his typical energy that is needed for an interpro. Both games in Limerick last season ended with a single score between the two sides, so we know it’ll be a tight game. The team that is most consistent for the full 80 minutes and is clinical with the chances they create will be the team that wins it.”
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (CAPT), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen, Jack Carty (CAPT), Caolin Blade; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.
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