PRO14: Teams up for Connacht v Ulster

Published Categorised as 2020-21, Connacht Rugby, PRO14, Provincial Rugby Men, Ulster Rugby Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ben Moxham in action for Ulster U18 v eagle Impact Rugby Academy, June 2018. © Beth Cregan | The Front Row Union

Dan McFarland has made ten changes as Ulster travel to the Sportsground to take on Connacht tonight.

Michael Lowry, James Hume, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Alan O’Connor are the only players to retain their spots in the starting team as the injury roster lengthens meanwhile player management protocols also have to be adhered to.

Ex Larne High schoolboy Ben Moxham is set to make his debut off the bench for the province tomorrow night. Predominantly a centre, Moxham played in both victories for the A team over Connacht and Munster recently however has featured on the wing for Ireland U20s in the most recent Six Nations. He’s also Sevens experience having featured for Ireland U18 in their victorious European Championship campaign in 2019.

Rainey Old Boy Brad Roberts is also included on the bench after making his debut earlier in the season.

The opposition

Connacht have gone fully loaded with the only notable absentee being Bundee Aki in the centre. Alex Wootton also misses out after solid performances in Europe with Tiernan O’Halloran moving to fullback and John Porch starting on the right wing.

Up front is my main concern for Ulster. With Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham all starting in the front row, Connacht will target Ulster’s scrum – an element where Ulster haven’t had much success over the last two matches.

Irish teams have won 26/28 PRO14 matches this season with the home side accounting for the two losses against Cardiff Blues and Scarlets. The Galway side is level on points with Scarlets in the top three of Conference B behind Munster but crucially have played two less games than the Welsh region.

In Europe Connacht produced a very good away performance in Paris against Racing 92 coming back from 24-8 down on 50 minutes to having possession in the Racing 22 four points down with minutes to go. Bristol put Connacht’s chances to bed with a bonus point win last week.

Tiernan O’Halloran15Michael Lowry
John Porch14Craig Gilroy
Sam Arnold13James Hume
Tom Daly12Stewart Moore
Matt Healy11Ethan McIlroy
Jack Carty10Ian Madigan
Caolin Blade9Alby Mathewson
Denis Buckley1Kyle McCall
Shane Delahunt2John Andrew
Finlay Bealham3Tom O’Toole
Ultan Dillane4Alan O’Connor
Quinn Roux5Kieran Treadwell
Eoghan Masterson6Greg Jones
Conor Oliver7Jordi Murphy
Jarrad Butler8Nick Timoney
Dave Heffernan16Bradley Roberts
Jordan Duggan17Andrew Warwick
Dominic Robertson-McCoy18Marty Moore
Gavin Thornbury19David O’Connor
Sean Masterson20Matthew Rea
Kieran Marmion21David Shanahan
Sean O’Brien22Ben Moxham
Colm de Buitlear23Matt Faddes

The man in the middle…

Sean Gallagher will take charge of his fifth Ulster match since his first against Zebre in February 2017, including the comeback against Munster in 2018 when Sam Arnold was sent off for the Limerick side.

On that occasion, Ulster were 17-0 down at half time before Darren Cave and a Craig Gilroy brace levelled the match with Rob Lyttle crossing in the final play of the game to win in front of a raucous Ravenhill crowd.

26-2-17Celtic LeagueZebreStadio Sergio Lanfranchi4014

The FRU predicts

I think it will be tough for Ulster tomorrow and have Connacht as firm favourites. I expect it to be typical Galway conditions and will give the home side the edge, especially up front. Connacht by 12.

With Leinster not playing this weekend, a win would extend Ulster’s lead at the top which is now crucial as only the top side from each side conference progressing to the final.

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