Aki and Hansen start for Connacht's knock out clash with Benetton

Grand Slam winners Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen return to the start for Connacht's EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 game with Benetton. 
Aki and Hansen start for Connacht's knock out clash with Benetton

STARTING XV: Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen return to Connacht starting XV. Pic:©INPHO/James Crombie

Andy Friend and his back room team have included both Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki in their starting XV for their Round of 16 clash with Benetton in the EPCR Challenge Cup on Saturday in Treviso  (3pm Irish Time/4pm Italian time).

Hansen will start for the first time since playing in every Irish game in the Six Nations while Aki makes his first appearance for Connacht since their Christmas interpro against Ulster.

They are among six changes to the side which defeated Edinburgh last week with Dave Heffernan, Leva Fifita, Paul Boyle and Tiernan O'Halloran all coming into the starting XV.

Heffernan is joined by props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier in the front row while Niall Murray teams up with Fifita in the second row. Back row sees flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver join Boyle at number 8.

Caolin Blade and David Hawkshaw's partnership continues with Tom Farrell partnerning up with Aki in the centre. John Porch moves to right with O'Halloran and Hansen making up the back line.

“There was lots to like about last weekend’s win, so it’s a brilliant situation we find ourselves in where we can bring six experienced internationals into the team for this game" says Director of Rugby Andy Friend. 

"That experience will be very important in knockout rugby, particularly away against a Benetton side who will also welcome back some important players.

I’m very confident that we have the sufficient squad depth to challenge on both fronts in this final block of games.

"What’s important now is to build on our recent performances as we attempt to progress through to the next stage of this competition.”

CONNACHT: T O'Halloran, J Porch, T Farrell, B Aki, M Hansen, D Hawkshaw, C Blade (c), P Dooley, D Heffernan, J Aungier, L Fifita, N Murray, C Prendergast, C Oliver, P Boyle

REPLACEMENTS: D Tierney-Martin, J Duggan, S Illo, O Dowling, S Hurley-Langton, K Marmion, C Forde, S Jennings

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