Friend wants Connacht to pick up where they left off 

The western province signed off their last URC game with a superb 36-11 win over Ulster
Friend wants Connacht to pick up where they left off 

Connacht Head coach Andy Friend

Connacht coach Andy Friend wants his men to take up from where they left off with that superb 36-11 win over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium as they embark on ten games in a row starting with a clash against Ospreys at the Sportsground on Friday evening (7.35pm RTÉ2).

And he has handed the captaincy again to Jack Carty in the week when the out-half signed a new three-year contract, even though club skipper Jarrad Butler starts in the back row.

There will be a debut for summer signing from South Afroca Shayne Bolton, who is Irish qualified, while former Irish U20 Oran McNulty makes his first Connacht start at full-back.

Elsewhere, hooker Dave Heffernan will make his 150th appearance while Aussie Mack Hansen, another summer signing, will be hoping to continue the form which saw him called up to the extended Irish squad by Andy Farrell.

Alex Wootton returns for his first game of the season while Peter Robb, another to have recovered from injury, could play for the first time since February, with Bundee Aki ruled out with a knee injury picked up on Irish duty.

“We're in a good spot,” said Friend. “The boys had a break and we had three good weeks of training. We got the majority of our international players back which is good. And we've had three really good weeks of continual work. We have ten games, Christmas is in there, New Year’s is in there, European games, Friday, Saturday and Sunday games but all we can do is zoom in on are these two games against Ospreys and Leinster, two Friday night games and we're looking forward to them.

“Ospreys have been one of the quality sides when you look at their stats across the board, metres gained up the field, they've the least amount of turnovers, good discipline, they don't give away penalties so they don't give access which is going to be tricky. We're going to have a tough night, they're a very formidable outfit.” 

CONNACHT O McNulty; A Wootton, S Bolton, S Arnold, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; N Murray, U Dillane; J Butler, C Oliver, P Boyle.

Replacements: S Delahunt, J Duggan, J Aungier, O Dowling, E Masterson, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, P Robb.

OSPREYS: D Evans; M Nagy, O Watkin, J Hawkins, L Morgan; S Myler, R Webb (capt); N Smith, E Taione, T Botha; B Davies, R Davies; S Cross, J Morgan, E Roots.

Replacements: S Parry, G Thomas, R Henry, W Griffiths, M Morris, R Morgan-Williams, J Thomas, C Evans.

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