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Aki returns as Connacht prepare for Champions Cup Lam reunion


Connacht head coach Andy Friend has recalled Bundee Aki to his starting XV for Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup meeting with Bristol Bears.

The game sees the western province reunited with their PRO12-winning former head coach Pat Lam.

Aki returns to the centre in one of two changes to the side beaten away to Racing 92 in their first Pool B game of the campaign.

He replaces Tom Daly who in turn drops to the bench.

The only other alteration sees Conor Oliver start on the openside with Jarrad Butler among the replacements.

Meanwhile, ex-Connacht wing Niyi Adeolokun has been named on the Bristol bench for the game at the Sportsground.

"While you’re never happy with a defeat, there was a huge amount to like about that performance in France last week," Friend said of his team selection.

"It makes sense for us to stick with those same group of players, so the key thing now is we bring that level of consistency to our game and produce it in week in week out. 14 of this squad of 23 came through the Connacht Academy which says it all about the trust we put in our systems at the club to play back-to-back Champions Cup games of this nature."

The head coach added, "European games under The Sportsground lights are always special occasions so no doubt we’ll miss our supporters again on Sunday.

"Both ourselves and Bristol know only a win will do if we want to reach the quarter-finals so it should be a great contest and hopefully we’ll come out the right side of the result."

Connacht: 
15. John Porch,14. Alex Wootton, 13. Sammy Arnold, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Matt Healy, 10. Jack Carty, 9. Kieran Marmion.
1. Denis Buckley, 2. Dave Heffernan, 3. Finlay Bealham, 4. Eoghan Masterson, 5. Ultan Dillane, 6. Sean Masterson, 7. Conor Oliver, 8. Paul Boyle (C)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt, 17. Jordan Duggan, 18. Jack Aungier, 19. Cian Prendergast, 20. Jarrad Butler, 21. Caolin Blade, 22. Tom Daly, 23. Tiernan O’Halloran (185)

Bristol Bears: 
15. Max Malins; 14. Siva Naulago, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Siale Piutau, 11. Alapati Leiua; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Harry Randall;
1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Bryan Byrne, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Ed Holmes, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Ben Earl, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements:
16. Will Capon, 17. Max Lahiff, 18. John Afoa, 19. Joe Joyce, 20. Dan Thomas, 21. Andy Uren, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Niyi Adeolokun.

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Andy Friend Bristol Bristol Bears Bundee Aki Connacht Heineken Champions Cup Jarrad Butler Pat Lam

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