United Rugby Championship: Boost for Connacht and Munster as big guns return while Emiliano Boffelli is back for Edinburgh

David Skippers

The United Rugby Championship continues on Friday as two matches take place, including the highly anticipated Irish derby between Connacht and Munster.

Edinburgh v Lions

Argentine international Emiliano Boffelli returns to Edinburgh Rugby’s starting line-up for their United Rugby Championship match against Emirates Lions at DAM Health Stadium.

The Los Pumas star makes his first Edinburgh appearance of the 22/23 season – having enjoyed an impressive Rugby Championship campaign, notching up 20 points in August’s stunning win against the All Blacks, while playing a key role in Argentina’s summer series victory against Scotland – and is selected on the wing as one of eight changes named by Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair.

Matt Currie (outside centre) makes his first start of the season in place of the injured Mark Bennett while Henry Pyrgos gets the nod at scrum-half as Ben Vellacott misses out having picking up a knock in training.

A new front-row combination of Boan Venter (loosehead) and Luan de Bruin (tighthead) start as Glen Young (lock) comes into the second-row.

Luke Crosbie (blindside flanker) and Viliame Mata (number eight) are both fit again and return to the back-row in place of injured duo Jamie Ritchie and Nick Haining.

Henry Immelman continues at full-back as Bofelli and Darcy Graham are selected on opposite wings. Academy graduate Currie links up with James Lang (inside centre) in midfield as Pygros and Blair Kinghorn (fly-half) combine at half-back.

Scotland internationalist Stuart McInally continues at hooker as club co-captain Grant Gilchrist retains his place in the second-row alongside Young. Scotland and British and Irish Lions back-row Hamish Watson once again starts at openside flanker as Crosbie and Mata complete the pack.

Minor changes for the Lions

Meanwhile, Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has made minor alterations to his run-on side after back-to-back victories over the Ospreys and Cardiff in recent weeks.

Van Rooyen has made just two changes to his starting line-up with Stean Pienaar replacing Edwill van der Merwe on the right wing while Ruan Venter takes over from Emmanuel Tshituka on the blindside flank.

Van der Merwe has been ruled out with concussion and returned home to South Africa while Tshituka drops down to the bench.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Matt Currie, 12 James Lang, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Glen Young , 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Boan Venter
16 Dave Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 WP Nel, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Ben Muncaster, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Charlie Savala, 23 Chris Dean

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Quan Horn, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (c), 4 Pieter Jansen van Vuren, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole
16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Emmanuel Tshituka, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Morne van dern Berg, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Zander du Plessis

Venue: Scotstoun
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ru Campbell (Scotland), Jonny Perriam (Scotland)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)

Connacht v Munster

Connacht captain Jack Carty will make his first appearance of the season in Friday’s historic United Rugby Championship interpro against Munster at The Sportsground in Galway.

The fly-half has recovered from wrist surgery to take his place in the starting team, with five changes in total from the side that faced the Bulls last week.

Shamus Hurley-Langton is handed his first start, while Gavin Thornbury, Byron Ralston and Conor Fitzgerald also return to the starting XV.

Fitzgerald is handed the number 15 jersey while David Hawkshaw starts at inside-centre. Kieran Marmion, Mack Hansen and John Porch make up the rest of the backs.

The experienced front-row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Oisín Dowling partners Thornbury in the second-row. Flanker Conor Oliver and number eight Jarrad Butler complete the starting XV.

The management team have opted for a six/two split on the bench with back-rowers Josh Murphy and Paul Boyle both among the replacements. The fixture is set to be a momentous occasion with the new state-of-the-art synthetic surface playing host to its first fixture.

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Graeme Rowntree has made are four changes to his run-on side that beat Zebre last weekend.

Big guns return for Munster

Joey Carbery, Gavin Coombes and Conor Murray all start for the first time this season with Carbery making his first start at full-back for Munster. Jean Kleyn also comes into the side after recovering from a head knock.

Munster Rugby Academy duo Conor Phillips and Patrick Campbell keep their places on either flank with Carbery completing the back three.

Murray and Ben Healy form the half-back pairing with Dan Goggin and Malakai Fekitoa continuing their centre partnership. The front-row of Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Keynan Knox is unchanged with Kleyn coming in to partner Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

Jack O’Donoghue, captain Peter O’Mahony and Coombes complete the side. There are two Academy players among the replacements with Fionn Gibbons set to make his Munster debut and Edwin Edogbo in line for his third appearance of the season.

First year Academy player Gibbons can play in the centre and on the wing and was a Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s earlier this year.

In other team news, Mike Haley and Fineen Wycherley were unavailable after picking up knocks.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Conor Fitzgerald, 14 John Porch, 13 Byron Ralston, 12 David Hawkshaw, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty (c), 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
16 Grant Stewart, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Paul Boyle

Munster: 15 Joey Carbery, 14 Conor Phillips, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Patrick Campbell, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Peter O’Mahony (c), 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
16 Scott Buckley, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Edwin Edogbo, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Fionn Gibbons

Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Dan Carson (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

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