Sale Sharks vs Connacht

Sale Sharks vs Connacht : Sale Sharks vs Connacht Rugby at AJ Bell Stadium 29th Mar 2019 at 19:45 Friday.Sale Sharks vs Connacht will hope to make fifth time lucky when they tackle European Challenge Cup quarter-final opponents on Friday.

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Fly-half returns as Sam James moves to centre to cover the injured James O’Connor while Connacht have Bundee Aki back for their fifth attempt to reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals

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Sam James moves to centre, in place of the injured James O’Connor, while Josh Beaumont shifts to number eight.Bundee Aki returns to the Connacht XV after featuring in all of Ireland’s games at the Six Nations.

Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion start in the half-backs, having both come off the bench in the win over Benetton.Darragh Leader is named at full-back while winger Niyi Adeolokun makes his first start since picking up an arm injury in November.

Props Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy join captain Tom McCartney in the front row.The two sides meet for the third time this season after Sale finished top of Pool Three, ahead of the Irish province on bonus points.

The Sharks have won five of the previous six meetings between the clubs, with Connacht triumphing 20-18 in their most recent encounter in January.
Connacht will hope to make fifth time lucky when they tackle European Challenge Cup quarter-final opponents Sale Sharks on Friday.

The Irish side have lost all four of their previous Challenge Cup last-eight clashes against English opposition.But they will head to the AJ Bell Stadium buoyed by Ireland centre Bundee Aki making his return after the Six Nations, while Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion forge Connacht’s half-back combination.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend said: “We said at the start of the season that we wanted to be in the business end of both the Challenge Cup and the Pro14 competitions.

“We face a tough challenge away to Sale, but this is knockout rugby and we have picked a side to go and win the game.”I am happy with how the squad has been performing over the past few weeks.

“We are seeing strong competition for places, there is a real intensity to our training and we are seeing that in our performances on the pitch.
“We have played Sale twice this season, with both teams winning a game apiece, so I expect Friday night to be another tight affair.”

Twice Challenge Cup winners Sale are bolstered by a return to action for fly-half AJ MacGinty, who starts against his former team.Sam James moves to centre, replacing an injured James O’Connor, with Josh Beaumont starting at number eight in a back-row that also features Jono Ross and Tom Curry.

The Challenge Cup quarter-finals continue on Saturday when Worcester host Harlequins, while Sunday’s action sees Bristol travel to La Rochelle and Northampton visit Clermont Auvergne.

Bundee Aki has returned to the Connacht starting team for their European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Sale Sharks on Friday night. This will be Aki’s first start for Connacht since featuring in all of Ireland’s games in the recent Six Nations Championship.

The Connacht side will be captained by hooker Tom McCartney, who makes his 100th appearance for the province. Carty also returns to the starting line-up, having come off the bench in the home win over Benetton last weekend. Alongside Carty will be fellow international Kieran Marmion who also featured off the bench last time out.

In the back three, Darragh Leader is named at full back with Cian Kelleher and Niyi Adeolokun on the wings. Adeolokun makes his first start since November, when he picked up an arm injury against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Aki’s inclusion in the midfield sees him form a partnership with the versatile Kyle Godwin.

Up front, props Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy join McCartney in the front row. While in the second row Gavin Thornbury continues his return from injury alongside James Cannon.In the back row Eoghan Masterson and James Connolly are named at blindside and openside respectively, with 22 year old Paul Boyle at number 8.

MacGinty played in five of the club’s first six games, but his only other appearance was at Northampton in February. Sam James reverts to his preferred position of outside centre, in place of the injured James O’Connor.

Josh Beaumont starts at No.8, with skipper Jono Ross and Tom Curry on the flanks. Will Cliff is fit to resume, following his enforced departure against Leicester Tigers three weeks ago and is joined by Scots’ international Josh Strauss on the bench.Aki will make his first start for the western province since before Six Nations where he played in every game for Joe Schmidt’s side.

Both Connacht and Sale have already faced off with one another in the pool stage of this competition with both sides recording one win apiece.Connacht’s last visit to the AJ Bell Stadium resulted in defeat so they know a much-improved performance will be required to progress to the semi-finals.

Joining Aki, fellow Ireland internationals Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are named in the halfbacks while Aki will partner Kyle Godwin at 12 and the back-three is made up of Niyi Adeolokun, Cian Kelleher and Darragh Leader who is named at fullback.

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