European Rugby Challenge Cup: Connacht v Sale Sharks

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Sale wing Chris Ashton scored a hat-trick when the sides met in October
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Venue: Galway Sportsground Date: Saturday, 12 January Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live score updates on BBC local radio and on the BBC Sport website

Full-back Tiernan O’Halloran has recovered from the leg injury that ruled him out of the festive period and will start against Sale on Saturday.

Bundee Aki also returns as Connacht seek to leapfrog their opponents at the top of Pool three.

Sale will be without Josh Beaumont and Byron McGuigan for the trip to Galway as they miss out due to injury.

Meanwhile, Andrei Ostrikov returns to the side after serving a suspension and Cameron Redpath starts on the bench.

O’Halloran makes his timely return to the back three alongside Cian Kelleher, who this week announced that he would be returning to his native province Leinster at the end of the season.

Prop Denis Buckley will make his 150th appearance for the province after sickness meant he was a late withdrawal from last week’s loss to Munster.

European Challenge Cup Pool Three
P W D L Pts
Sale Sharks 4 3 0 1 16
Connacht 4 3 0 1 13
Bordeaux-Begles 4 1 1 2 6
Perpignan 4 0 1 3 2

Connacht won one of their three recent inter-provincial derbies although impressed in stages during their defeats by Leinster and Munster.

A win for Sale would secure top spot in Pool Three while a Connacht victory would put the western province in a strong position for qualification going into the final round of pool fixtures.

“Sale are a really good side and we saw the quality they have when we played them away earlier in the season,” Connacht head coach Andy Friend told the club website.

“Since then though, we have improved with every game and we also picked up a vital away win against Perpignan in the competition before Christmas.”

Connacht: O’Halloran, Kelleher, Godwin, Aki, Healy; Carty, Mitchell; Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Dillane, Cannon, Masterson, Connolly, Butler (capt).

Replacements: Delahunt, Burke, Carey, Roux, Fainga’a, Blade, Horwitz, Leader.

Sale: Ashton; Solomona, S James, O’Connor, Reed; Wilkinson, de Klerk; Harrison, Webber, John, Evans, Phillips, Ross (capt), Curry, Strauss.

Replacements: Langdon, Bristow, Jones, Ostrikov, Curry, Cliff, L James, Redpath.

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