Connacht make five changes for game in South Africa

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made five changes to his team to face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein at 3pm Irish Time on Saturday.

Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row and winger Niyi Adeolokun. Connacht are aiming to back up their bonus-point win over the Southern Kings last week with a second win on their South African tour.

The inclusion of the experienced McCartney sees him join a front row alongside props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the second row, Thornbury is set to start his first game since returning from a shoulder injury that he picked up in the win over Scarlets earlier in the season.

In the back-row Copeland at number 8 and Boyle at blindside will line up alongside skipper Jarrad Butler.

Adeolokun is the only change in the backline with his inclusion on the wing. He will be part of a back three that incudes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Jack Carty, man-of-the-match last week, continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade as do the midfield duo of Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell.

While Head Coach Andy Friend was satisfied with the bonus point win last weekend, he says they were still left with plenty of areas for improvement this week.

He said: "The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks.

"They have been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they have responded really well. Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal."

Friend is not underestimating the challenge that his side face, against the Cheetahs whose home form has been extremely competitive since joining the PRO14 last season.

He said: "We will need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs. They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that. But we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result."

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher.

Toyota Cheetahs: Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba, Erich de Jager, Sintu Manjezi, JP du Preez, Junior Pokomela, Abongile Nonkontwana, Gerhard Olivier, Shaun Venter (Captain), Louis Fouche, Darren Adonis, Nico Lee, William Small-Smith, Rhyno Smith, Malcolm Jaer

Replacements: Marnus van der Merwe, Charles Marais, Aranos Coetzee, Justin Basson, Daniel Maartens, Rudi Paige, Tian Schoeman, Benhard Janse van Rensburg


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