Connacht Rugby, who are well placed to qualify for the EPCR Challenge Cup after winning both their first two matches, welcome back four Irish internationals for their United Rugby Championship clash with Ulster Rugby at The Sportsground on Friday.
Director of Rugby Andy Friend recalls fly-half Jack Carty, prop Finlay Bealham, No.8 Cian Prendergast and wing Mack Hansen in making 12 changes to the side who defeated CA Brive last week, with hooker Shane Delahunt, flanker Oisín Dowling and centre Bundee Aki the only players retained.
Denis Buckley completes the front row, locks Josh Murphy and Niall Murray are paired together, while flanker Conor Oliver makes his 50th appearance.
In the backs, scrum-half Caolin Blade is brought back along with centre Tom Farrell, wing John Porch and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
Also in the URC, club captain Kyle Steyn returns to the Glasgow Warriors’ starting XV for the visit of Edinburgh Rugby as head coach Franco Smith makes five changes to the side who are also two from two in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Steyn and centre Stafford McDowall are both new faces in the squad on duty for last weekend’s bonus-point win over USAP, with fly-half Tom Jordan promoted off the bench.
What a weekend, here's how the #ChallengeCup pools stand after 2️⃣ rounds 🔥
See you in January! 🥳#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/WleofkBziU
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) December 18, 2022
Hooker Fraser Brown is also brought into the squad, while lock Sintu Manjezi is a starter, having been a replacement in the 26-18 victory.
Meanwhile in the Gallagher Premiership, Gary Graham makes his first appearance of the season for Newcastle Falcons when they host northern rivals Sale Sharks, after recovering from a knee injury suffered in August.
The Scottish international is included in a revamped back row which also sees the return of Carl Fearns following the head injury he picked up three weeks ago at London Irish and Callum Chick.
Hooker Jamie Blamire is recalled too after recovering from a head injury, at Connacht two weeks ago, while USA international Greg Peterson returns in the second row.
In the backs, Brett Connon, a replacement in last weekend’s 47-10 home hammering by Cardiff Rugby in the EPCR Challenge Cup, is promoted, Tom Penny and Matias Moroni are a new centre partnership, and England international Adam Radwan is back on the wing.