Connacht coach Andy Friend says he will field a full strength team in his side’s final Champions Cup game of the season against Montpellier despite already being out of the running to qualify for the latter stages of the competition.
The return of Kieran Marmion to full training for the first time in two and a half months is a huge lift for the province, while Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell, Conor Kenny, and Peter Robb are all in line for some game time in the South of France.
A troublesome back injury has kept Marmion on the injury list since early November, but after missing out on a key period of the season, Friend says the Ireland scrum-half is ready to complete his comeback.
“Judging by his performance out there at training, Kieran’s really good. He's been brilliant in his rehab stuff and he's been working really, really hard,” said Friend.
“Marmo is always there [in the gym] working his backside off, and you can just see he has got energy about him. So I'm excited for him and I think the whole group is excited for him to come back.
“It’s really important for some of the men who have just come back in to get game time. Colby Fianga’a, Mattie Healy, Kieran Marmion. When when we select the team, don't be surprised to see a lot of those names here.”
Connacht’s world cup players Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are also expected to feature in the clash against Montpellier, and with the province’s action put on ice for two weeks after this game due to the Six Nations, Friend is happy to include them.
And while there was good news on the injury front for Conor Fitzgerald, who has shaken off his ankle injury, the prognosis is not as positive for his brother Stephen, who will miss the remainder of the season due to a cruciate ligament knee injury sustained against Leinster.
“It’s his knee. He’s done his ACL. He’ll be out for the rest of the season,” said Friend