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Published: 12:11 | 19/9/18

Copeland and Aki start for Connacht


No 8 Robin Copeland and centre Bundee Aki have been named in the Connacht starting line-up for Saturday's Pro 14 game against Scarlets at the Sportsground.

Copeland has recovered from the quad injury that kept him out of his side's opening three Pro 14 fixtures of the season, and will make his Connacht competitive debut against the 2016-17 Pro 14 champions.

The 30-year-old, who joined Connacht over the summer from Munster, has been passed fit for this weekend's game against Wayne Pivac's side after playing in Connacht Eagles's 53-38 Celtic Cup defeat to Dragons on Sunday.

Ireland centre Bundee Aki also makes his first start of the season after missing Connacht's opening three games through the IRFU's player welfare programme.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend has made six changes from the side from last week's 17-10 defeat to Edinburgh, bringing in loosehead prop Denis Buckley, centre Tom Farrell, hooker Tom McCartney and lock Gavin Thornbury for Saturday's match in Galway.

Wales flanker James Davies misses the game with the knee injury he sustained in Scarlets' 38-29 victory over Benetton in Llanelli on Saturday.

"We are not sure in terms of how long he will be out for, and we will know more once he has seen the specialist," Pivac said.

"He is definitely out for this weekend and we will know more shortly."

Davies' brother Jonathan also misses Saturday's match with a hamstring problem, but the Wales centre expects to return for the game against Southern Kings at Parc y Scarlets on 29 September.

Scarlets' prop Rob Evans and back-row Josh Macleod are still sidelined, but number eight Uzair Cassiem makes the bench after a leg injury, and fly-half Rhys Patchell returns after completing concussion return-to-play protocols following the head injury he suffered against Ulster on 1 September.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O'Brien, Jarrad Butler (capt), Robin Copeland

Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga'a, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun

Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Tom Prydie, Kieron Fonotia, Hadleigh Parkes, Johnny McNicholl; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Phil Price, Ken Owens (capt), Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Steve Cummins, Ed Kennedy, Lewis Rawlins, Blade Thomson

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, David Bulbring, Uzair Cassiem, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Angus O'Brien, Paul Asquith

Image: Inpho/James Crombie

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