Connacht make sweeping changes ahead of Boxing Day Ulster clash

Connacht's Craig Ronaldson.
Connacht's Craig Ronaldson.

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made 12 personnel and two positional changes ahead of Ulster’s visit to the Sportsground on Boxing Day (kick off 6pm).

Niyi Adeolokun, who switches from the left to right wing, and November Player of the Month Craig Ronaldson are the only two remaining from the backline that started against Newcastle on Sunday.

Galway man Tiernan O’Halloran returns to take his place at full back while Ronaldson is joined in the centre by the returning Bundee Aki. Matt Healy returns to start on the left wing while the half back pairing sees Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion line out together for the seventh time this season.

Up front, only Eoghan Masterson remains from last week, switching to Number 8 to allow captain John Muldoon return at blindside flanker, while Academy flanker James Connolly completes the back row.

Ultan Dillane and Aly Muldowney form the second row partnership behind the new front row trio of Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan and Ireland international Nathan White.

On the bench, both Ronan Loughney and AJ MacGinty have been passed fit for inclusion in this week’s match day squad. Academy players Shane Delahunt, Sean O’Brien and Rory Parata are also included among the replacements.

Lam said: “It’s great to have players back available this week in what is going to be a really big test for us. Ulster have always been tough opposition and this weekend will be no different.

“When you look at what they have achieved already this season and what they are capable of, we know we will have to be clinical in everything we do to ensure we make the most of the opportunities we create.

“It’s our first derby game at the Sportsground and there’s going to be a huge crowd behind us. We are really excited to get out there on Saturday and determined to put in a performance that will keep our unbeaten home record intact.”

Connacht team to face Ulster: (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion.

(1-8) Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowneym, John Muldoon (captain), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements (16-23) Shane Delahunt, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, Sean O’Brien, Ian Porter, AJ MacGinty, Rory Parata.