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Carty fit to captain Connacht while Baloucoune makes welcome return for Ulster

Jack Carty has been passed fit for Connacht’s latest step in their historic bid to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup for the first time in their history.

nd they have received a further boost with fit-again flanker Paul Boyle named on the bench as he returns to action for the first time since November.

Andy Friend’s side are seeking to avenge the December defeat to Leicester in Welford Road and he has made three changes from the side that defeated Munster on New Year’s Day for tomorrow’s return clash in Galway.

Two of those come in the tight five where Shane Delahunt starts at hooker and Niall Murray comes into the second row while the club’s record try scorer Matt Healy starts for the first time this season as injured Mack Hansen is sidelined with calf trouble once more.

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Props Matthew Burke and Finlay Bealham and lock Oisín Dowling retain their places.

The back row as well as the half-back and centre pairings are all unchanged.

Jarrad Butler is at number eight with flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver alongside him, while Jack Carty captains the side beside scrum-half Kieran Marmion. Bundee Aki and Sammy Arnold start in midfield.

Among the replacements is Paul Boyle who has recovered from injury to return to the matchday 23 for the first time since the end of November.

Meanwhile, Robert Baloucoune will make a welcome return from injury to join unbeaten Ulster’s match-day squad travelling to cinch Stadium on Sunday hoping to complete a quick-fire double when they face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3.15pm kick-off).

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The Irish international winger has been named on the right wing with Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy taking up the full-back and left wing starting positions.

Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns has been selected at out-half with Nathan Doak, who is set to make his first European start, joining him at scrum-half with John Cooney already ruled out.

Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore will pack down either side of Rob Herring in the front row. Alan O’Connor will once again captain the side, and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell.

Marcus Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney named at openside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are named as forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing back line cover.

Courtney Lawes will make his 250th appearance for Saints. The 32-year-old England international and British & Irish Lion brings up his latest milestone in a storied career which has seen him in Black, Green and Gold for 15 seasons.

Lawes returns to the starting line-up as one of three changes for Saints, with Tom Litchfield set to make his European debut in the centre while lock Brandon Nansen starts only his second match for Northampton in the second row.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: 15 George Furbank, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Tom Litchfield, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 1 Alex Waller, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Brandon Nansen,. 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Lewis Ludlam , 8 Teimana Harrison

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Tom James, 23 Tommy Freeman

ULSTER:  Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

CONNACHT: 15. Tiernan O’Halloran, 14. John Porch, 13. Sammy Arnold, 12. Bundee Aki , 11. Matt Heal, 10. Jack Carty, 9. Kieran Marmion, 1. Matthew Burke, 2. Shane Delahunt, 3. Finlay Bealham, 4. Oisín Dowling, 5. Niall Murray, 6. Cian Prendergast, 7. Conor Oliver, 8. Jarrad Butler 

Replacements: 16. Dave Heffernan, 17. Tietie Tuimaug, 18. Jack Aungier, 19. Ultan Dillane , 20. Paul Boyle, 21. Caolin Blade, 22. Conor Fitzgerald, 23. Tom Farrell 

LEICESTER TIGERS:  15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Freddie Steward, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Nic Dolly, 3 Joe Heyes, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 6 Ollie Chessum, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Jasper Wiese 

REPLACEMENTS: 16 Charlie Clare; 17 James Whitcombe; 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Tom Manz, 20 Francois van Wyk, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Dan Kelly, 23 Hosea Saumaki

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