MACK HANSEN will return for Connacht's United Rugby Championship showdown with Munster tommrow. The game takes place at 5.15pm.
Hansen is top try-scorer in the tournament, but has missed the last month because of injury. The Australian returns as one of two changes to the side that were defeated in Champions Cup against Leicester two weeks ago.Oisín Dowling, the lock is the other change.
John Porch starts on the right wing with Hansen taking up duties on the opposite side. Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full-back.
Jack Carty, Bundee Aki, Sammy Arnold, and Kieran Marmion make up the half-back and centre pairings.
Finlay Bealham, Matthew Burke, and Dave Heffernan make up the front row. Ultan Dillane partners Dowling in the second row
Wing forwards Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver and number 8 Jarrad Butler form the back row.
Matthew Devine, the academy scrum-half from Ballinasloe RFC has been named in the matchday sqaud for the first time
Andy Friend, the Connacht head coach said:
"This is obviously a very important game if we’re to achieve our aim of a top-four finish in the URC,"
"We’ve no game in the competition for a month after this weekend so it’d be great to have another win under our belt, albeit it against a very strong Munster team.
"The last four games between the teams have been decided by a single score, so we’ve to make sure we’re on top of our game for the full 80 minutes and take our chances when they come."
In other news Jack O’Donoghue will captain Munster. There are seven changes to the team that defeated Castres in the Champions Cup last time out.
Academy back-row forward Alex Kendellen makes his first Munster start on his fourth appearance for the province following the 20-year-old's Champions Cup debut against Castres two weeks ago.
Stephen Archer, Gavin Coombes, Shane Daly, Mike Haley and Fineen Wycherley all start on their first appearances since October with Craig Casey and Kendellen also coming into the starting XV.
Fineen Wycherley, Shane Daly, Mike Haley, Stephen Archer, and Gavin Coombes return for the first time since October, Craig Casey and Kendellen also coming into the team]
Haley is named at full-back with Andrew Conway and Daly on either flank.
In the centre Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell continue their partnership with Casey and Ben Healy in the half-backs.
Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Archer form the front row with Jean Kleyn and Wycherley behind them.
The back-row combination of O’Donoghue, Kendellen and Coombes completes the starting side
Rory Scannell is in line to make his 150th appearance for the province should he be used off the bench.
Ulster were due to host Leinster in the other inter-provincial derby but that game was cancelled due to Covid-19 cases.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 31, 2021
Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Oisín Dowling; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Tietie Tuimauga, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Eoghan Masterson, Abraham Papali’i, Matthew Devine, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O'Donoghue (capt), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Thomas Ahern, Jack Daly, Neil Cronin, Jack Crowley, Rory Scannell.