Challenge Cup team news: Aki and Bealham back for Connacht, Henderson fit for Ulster

Connacht line out against Pau while Ulster also travel to France to take on Montpellier in the round of 16

Connacht welcome back Bundee Aki and Finlay Bealham for the first time since the Six Nations ahead of their Challenge Cup trip to take on Pau.

Scrumhalf Caolin Blade also returns having missed last week’s defeat to Benetton through injury. Jarrad Butler is reinstated to the starting line-up as he starts at number eight.

Shane Jennings, whose previous eight Connacht appearances have come off the bench, has been named to make his first start for the province.

Bealham is joined by by Denis Buckley and Dave Heffernan in the frontrow, while Niall Murray and Joe Joyce once again form the secondrow pairing. Butler packs down alongside Cian Prendergast and Shamus Hurley-Langton in the backrow.


Jack Carty once again captains the team from outhalf.

Pau: J Maddocks; T Carol, E Roudil, J Vatubua, A Tuimaba; J Simmonds, D Robson; Z Fisi’ihoi, Y Delhommel, S Tokolahi; G Ducat, L Tagitagivalu; M Puech (capt), T Hamonou, S Zegueur.

Replacements: L Rey, H Parrou, G Papidze, S Cummins, F Metz, R Hewat, T Daubagna, A Desperes.

Connacht: T O’Halloran; S Bolton, D Hawkshaw, B Aki, S Jennings; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; J Joyce, N Murray; C Prendergast, S Hurley-Langton, J Butler.

Replacements: E de Buitléar, J Duggan, S Illo, D Murray, C Oliver, M Devine, JJ Hanrahan, T Farrell.

Ulster, the other Irish province in Challenge Cup action, have captain Iain Henderson fit and back in the fold ahead of their trip to Montpellier. Alan O’Connor is also back in the starting line-up to join his long-time secondrow partner in the starting XV.

The only other change to the side that lost to the Stormers last week sees Stewart Moore line out at fullback in place of the injured Mikey Lowry.

Nathan Doak once again gets the nod at outhalf with Billy Burns injured. Jake Flannery is on the bench. John Cooney partners his former scrumhalf counterpart in the halfbacks. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume once again form the centre pairing with Rob Baloucoune and Ethan McIlroy rounding out the backthree.

Montpellier: A de Nardi; G N’Gandebe, G Bridge, A Cadot, B Lam; L Foursans-Bourdette, A Eymeri; G Fichten, C Tolofua, H Williams; F Verhaeghe, P Willemse (capt); A Becognee, C Doumenc, S Simmonds.

Replacements: V Karkadze, B Erdocio, L Macharashvili, T DuGuid, Y Camara, L Carbonel, M Dakuwaqa, P Lucas

Ulster: S Moore; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McIlroy; N Doak, J Cooney; S Kitshoff, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, I Henderson (capt), M Rea, D McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: T Stewart, A Warwick, S Wilson, H Sheridan, C Izuchukwu, J Flannery, J Stockdale, D Ewers.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist