Bundee Aki ruled out until February with an ankle injury

Aki was man-of-the-match against Wasps last weekend

BY Daniel Kelly 12:13 Thursday 22 December 2016, 12:13 22 Dec 2016

Connacht’s Bundee Aki Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht have been dealt a blow with the news that Bundee Aki is out until the middle of February.

Aki, who was named man-of-the-match in last weekend's win over Wasps, is to go under the knife in a bid to cure an ongoing ankle injury. He will miss the team's final two Champions Cup games, against Zebre and Toulouse, along with at least four PRO12 matches.

The news was released by Connacht, as they named their team for Friday's match against Ulster in Belfast. Pat Lam's side make four changes to the team, from the one that defeated Wasps, in Galway.

Last week’s try scorer Danie Poolman will start at inside centre in place of Aki, for the first time alongside Rory Parata.

With Conor Carey added to the long list of injured props, the versatile Tom McCartney has now been named on the bench to cover loosehead prop. Dave Heffernan with start the game in the number two shirt while Shane Delahunt is named on the bench as replacement hooker.

James Cannon comes in to the side to partner Quinn Roux in the second row while Galway man Sean O’Brien is promoted from the bench to join the back row with Nepia Fox-Matamua and captain John Muldoon.

Pat Lam has been lamenting the team's preparations ahead of the game, due to injuries and illness within the squad.

"This week has probably been the most challenging I’ve had at Connacht Rugby with all the injuries, sickness and the group only coming together yesterday. Losing both Bundee and Conor to long term injuries is a big blow especially with our injury crisis at prop and midfield. With 21 injuries in our squad it’s an opportunity for the next player still standing to come in and nail his role in our structures and systems."

"We know we don’t have a good record up in Belfast but that just means this is a huge opportunity for us to create something special as a group. We’re really looking forward to the challenge."

Connacht team and replacements to face Ulster:

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Danie Poolman, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion. 

(1-8): Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Nepia Fox-Matamua, John Muldoon (capt). 

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Tom McCartney, JP Cooney, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Ciaran Gaffney, Naulia Dawai. 

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