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O'Mahony back for Munster while Aki on the Connacht bench for URC round two

Munster skipper Peter O'Mahony makes his seasonal debut as Reds boss Graham Rowntree makes eight changes for the clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Sunday.

O'Mahony, who was superb in Ireland's tour series triumph in New Zealand, is one of a number of Test players to get their new campaigns up and running for the provinces this weekend.

Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Mike Haley make up Munster's back three, Dan Goggin comes in at inside centre and Craig Casey gets the nod at scrum-half as they look to bounce back after the opening loss at Cardiff Blues.

READ MORE: Chris Farrell steps away from Munster over alleged rape case in France

Dave Kilcoyne makes his return having been out injured since March, while Stephen Archer also comes into the front row, and Rowntree has named a power-packed bench with Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery and Conor Murray all included.

“We’re looking forward to being back on home soil and looking for a response after our opening performance," said Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan.

"Munster don’t lose twice on the bounce often, so we must respect them. But we’ve also got to look after what we can look after, and we've got to show improvement.”

Bundee Aki returns for Connacht but is named on the bench as they also look for their first win of the new campaign, but face a difficult task against the title holders, the Stormers, in Stellenbosch.

However fellow Ireland back Mack Hansen does start, as does Ireland prop Finlay Bealham, as the westerners also chase their first win of the new season to dispel the disappointment of last weekend's showing against Ulster.

Bundee Aki (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Cian Prendergast and Caolin Blade will line out before joining up with Emerging Ireland for the three-game South Africa tour. Jarrad Butler skippers a side that features six changes in the pack alone.

“We’ve had a positive week so far in South Africa," said Connacht's director of rugby, Andy Friend.

"After arriving on Tuesday, we’ve managed to get the required training done and we’re in a good space heading into our game against the Stormers.

"I don’t believe that our performance against Ulster was reflective of all the hard work we’d put in during pre-season, and I’m very confident that we’ll deliver a much improved performance on Saturday against last year’s champions.”

Ulster boss Dan McFarland has made seven changes to Saturday's meeting with Scarlets, with John Cooney, Michael Lowry and Aaron Sexton included in the back line and Andy Warwick, Rob Herring, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney coming into the pack.

Ulster defence coach Jonny Bell said: “Scarlets is going to be a different game this week in many ways.

"They are a team that like to play a bit of rugby and, with Dwayne Peel knowing the Ulster squad inside and out, I have no doubt that he’ll have something up his sleeve.

"We need to be on our mettle against a very good side, and it’s going to be a challenge for us defensively, but that’s what we want.”

Munster: Mike Haley, Keith Earls, Malakai Fekitoa, Dan Goggin, Simon Zebo, Ben Healy, Craig Casey, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O'Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (CAPT), Jack O'Sullivan.

Replacements: Scott Buckley, Liam O’Connor, Keynan Knox, Edwin Edogbo, Tadhg Beirne, Paddy Patterson, Joey Carbery, Liam Coombes

Ulster: Michael Lowry, Aaron Sexton, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Andy Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (CAPT), Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Declan Moore, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Sean Reffell, Dave Shanahan, Angus Curtis, Craig Gilroy.

Connacht: Oran McNulty, John Porch, Byron Ralston, Tom Farrell, Mack Hansen, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Finlay Bealham, Josh Murphy, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (CAPT), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter Dooley, Jack Aungier, Oisín Dowling, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki, David Hawkshaw.


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