Irish International Bundee Aki is set for his first start for Connacht since the World Cup, following his appearance off the bench against Leinster last weekend.
Ultan Dillane has also returned to the Connacht starting team to face Montpellier in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup in the Sportsground on Sunday
The return of Aki and Dillane comes as a boost to Andy Friend and his coaching team as Connacht return to Champions Cup action after a two year absence. Dillane comes into the second row alongside Sligo man and former Ireland Under 20 international Cillian Gallagher.
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) November 15, 2019
In the front row, the inclusion of Dominic Robertson-McCoy is the only change from last weekend. The tighthead prop lines up alongside experienced hooker Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley at loosehead.
In the backrow, Colby Fainga’a comes in at blindside with Jarrad Butler at openside and Paul Boyle in his now familiar number 8 jersey.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half-back partnership and with Irish international Kieran Marmion on the injured list, Stephen Kerins is named as the replacement scrum-half for the second game in a row.
Bundee Aki will partner Kyle Godwin in midfield while the back three is made up of Darragh Leader at full-back with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“We have received a boost this week with Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy returning from injury and Bundee Aki back in the starting side.
"They bring a huge amount of experience at this level and that will be invaluable to us. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday and we know the importance of getting off to a good start in this competition, especially at home”.
“We have had incredible support so far this season in the Sportsground and we are expecting a huge occasion again on Sunday afternoon."
The western province will need all the support they can get. If Connacht were hoping that Montpellier would send a shadow side, as French teams have done in the past, they will be disappointed.
Former All-Black Aaron Cruden starts at out-half, while the South African Du Plessis brothers will take up a considerable amount of space on the replacements bench.
The Montpellier team in full:
- 15. Anthony Bouthier,
- 14. Gabriel N'gandebe,
- 13. Arthur Vincent,
- 12. Jan Serfontein,
- 11. Yvan Reilhac,
- 10. Aaron Cruden,
- 9. Benoit Paillaugue (c),
- 1. Mikheil Nariashvili,
- 2. Youri Delhommel,
- 3. Mohamed Haouas,
- 4. Nico Janse van Rensburg,
- 5. Paul Willemse,
- 6. Kelian Galletier,
- 7. Yacouba Camara,
- 8. Caleb Timu.
- 16. Bismarck Du Plessis,
- 17. Grégory Fichten,
- 18. Jannie Du Plessis,
- 19. Fulgence Ouedraogo,
- 20. Enzo Sanga,
- 21. Julien Bardy,
- 22. Henry Immelman,
- 23. Jacques Du Plessis,