Five changes as Connacht face into Stade Francais Champions Cup clash without Bundee Aki

Connacht, mindful of two titanic clashes in seven days which will define their European progress this season, have shuffled their pack for Sunday’s visit of inconsistent French side Stade Francais.

here are five changes in all from the side that faced Leinster last weekend and who were bullied at critical periods in that match, with four of those in the forwards.

Shane Delahunt comes into the front row with props Matthew Burke and Finlay Bealham.

There’s a new look second row of Oisín Dowling and Niall Murray with the influential Ultan Dillane still absent, while Cian Prendergast is also named in the squad, starting at blindside flanker with Conor Oliver and number eight Jarrad Butler alongside him.

The final change is at centre where Shayne Bolton comes back into the side, starting outside Sammy Arnold in a midfield still bereft of Bundee Aki.

The rest of the backs is unchanged with Kieran Marmion alongside captain Jack Carty, and a back three of wingers Mack Hansen and Alex Wootton, and full-back Oran McNulty.

“Sunday is the start of a really exciting opportunity for us to make an impact in the Champions Cup,” says coach Andy Friend.

“Knockout rugby in the competition is the aim so a win this weekend is vital if we want to get there, albeit against a very strong Stade Francais team.

“There’s been some special occasions at our home in this competition so with a strong Sportsground crowd behind us it’s set up to be a great occasion.”

Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada will reunite his November Puma stars Marcos Kremer and Nicolás Sánchez.

Ngani Laumape, the former Hurricanes and All Blacks player who came on as a substitute in last weekend’s win over La Rochelle will replace Waisea Nayacavelu alongside Alex Arrate in midfield.

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