Connacht Rugby are pleased to announce the signing of Irish U20 international prop Sam Illo.
 
Illo represents Old Wesley RFC and has played at underage level at Leinster Rugby, before going on to feature at tighthead in all five of Ireland’s U20 Six Nations games this summer.
 
The 20-year-old has signed a two-year deal and will link up with the Connacht squad next week as they continue their pre-season preparations.
 
Commenting on the newest signing, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Sam’s arrival to Connacht is another boost for us ahead of the new season. He was one of Ireland’s standout performers in the U20 Six Nations and has a very bright future ahead of him. I’m confident that at Connacht he will be able to take his game to the next level and give us further options in the front row.”
 
Sam Illo says he can’t wait to join up with the squad:
 
“I’m over the moon to be joining Connacht Rugby and I’d like to thank Andy and all the coaches for giving me this opportunity. I’m especially looking forward to linking up with Colm Tucker after working closely with him while with the Ireland U20s. To sign my first pro contract is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started with the rest of the squad.”

Connacht Rugby in conjunction with Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology are delighted to announce a Summer Talent Programme as part of a new agreement between the two organisations.
 
Under the new partnership, Connacht’s Summer Player Talent programme has begun at the sports facilities on the GMIT Galway campus, Dublin Road, Galway. The Summer Talent Programme is a 10-week programme which acts as a Training Camp for the Connacht Rugby Under 19s Boys and U18 Boys and Girls squads. The Connacht Women’s team will also be availing of the facilities, as all four squads prepare for the 2021 Interprovincial Series which kick off in August.
 
The GMIT logo will continue to feature on the front of shirt for the U19 and U18 Boys & Girls squads, demonstrating the commitment and ambition of both organisations to support and develop young talent across the West of Ireland both on and off the field.
 
GMIT students have enjoyed a history of sport at playing and academic level. GMIT launched a range of sports science programmes in 2016, recently adding a new Masters in Sport and Clinical Biomechanics to complement their existing degrees in Sport and Exercise Science, and in Public Health Nutrition, and their Masters in Strength and Conditioning.
 
Connacht Rugby’s Head of Rugby Development Joe Gorham says:
 
“We have been thrilled to partner up with GMIT for this year’s Summer Talent Programme. These training camps are instrumental in the development of our next generation of players, and we are very fortunate to have a campus like GMIT on our doorsteps to help them succeed. We look forward to continue working with GMIT into the future.”
 
GMIT President Dr Orla Flynn says:
 
“We are delighted to welcome these talented young players to our Galway campus this summer, and to give them first-hand experience of what GMIT has to offer as they prepare for third level education. Sport is central to our activities in GMIT, and we are proud to be partnering with Connacht Rugby for this summer camp in addition to the various education and research activities we are working on together.”
 
Pictured at the launch of the 2021 Connacht Rugby / GMIT Summer Talent Programme is President of Connacht Rugby Ann Heneghan, and GMIT President Dr Orla Flynn, with members of the 2021 Summer Talent Programme.

Caolin Blade and Paul Boyle could make their senior international debuts on Saturday after they were named in the matchday 23 for Saturday’s Summer Series clash with USA at the Aviva Stadium (k/o 7.15pm).
 
The pair are among four Connacht players on the replacements bench for the game, alongside Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham.
 
James Ryan wears the captain’s armband and will is partnered in the second row by Ryan Baird. In the backrow Caelan Doris switches to the blindside flank to accommodate Gavin Coombes at No.8 with the uncapped Nick Timoney at openside.
 
In the front row Tom O’Toole is set to make his international debut alongside Ronan Kelleher
and Dave Kilcoyne.
 
At half-back Craig Casey will make his first start for Ireland and will partner his provincial colleague Joey Carbery. Stuart McCloskey retains the inside centre berth and is joined by fellow Ulsterman debutant James Hume. Hugo Keenan starts his 13th consecutive game at fullback with Andrew Conway and the uncapped Robert Baloucoune on the wings.
 
Vodafone Summer Series 2021
Ireland team to play USA – 10th July 2021, Aviva Stadium

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
14. Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) uncapped
13. James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 5 caps
11. Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
10. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 23 caps
9. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 2 caps

1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 44 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 12 caps
3. Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
4. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 4 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps captain
6. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 8 caps
7. Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
8. Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 1 cap

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
17. Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 5 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 15 caps
19. Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
20. Paul Boyle (Connacht/Buccaneers) uncapped
21. Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) uncapped
22. Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
23. Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 4 caps

Connacht Rugby are pleased to announce the appointment of Philip Patterson to the role of Head of Commercial & Marketing at Connacht Rugby.
 
Patterson, who is originally from the UK and has family roots in Co. Mayo, joins Connacht following over 20 years’ experience in the Marketing industry where he has created and implemented successful marketing strategies for many high-profile global brands.
 
He joins Connacht Rugby having spent time in the world of Marketing Consulting; and has also held the role of Vice President Marketing at Octagon, where he led the teams delivering marketing strategies and campaigns for brands in partnership with organisations such as UEFA, Roland Garros, The Open and Disney. These promotions reached over 50 countries and achieved significant growth for his clients.
 
Previous to this, he held positions as Senior Vice President Marketing at GMR Marketing, Vice President Marketing at IMG; as well as positions at Synergy Sponsorship and Britvic Soft Drinks. During this time, he developed and delivered marketing campaigns for brands at worldwide sporting events including the FIFA World Cup, multiple Olympic Games, Super Bowl, the UEFA European Championships and The Championships, Wimbledon.
 
Philip Patterson has joined Connacht Rugby effective immediately (Monday 5th July).
 
Commenting on the appointment, CEO of Connacht Rugby Willie Ruane said:
 
“Following an extensive recruitment process, we are delighted to announce Philip’s appointment to the key role of Head of Commercial & Marketing. Philip has a proven track record in delivering internationally renowned marketing campaigns, and he understands the importance of brand and identity to an organisation like Connacht Rugby. He will bring a lot to the role and will help lead our Commercial & Marketing team into an exciting future for everyone at the club.”
 
Philip Patterson says he’s delighted to be joining the organisation:
 
“I am thrilled to be joining the team at Connacht Rugby. This is a very exciting opportunity for me not just to lead a vibrant Commercial & Marketing team in the sports industry, but one that also allows me to reconnect with my roots in the West of Ireland. There is a huge amount to look forward to in the years ahead for Connacht Rugby, beginning with the brand-new United Rugby Championship in September. There is a culture of excellence right across the organisation and I can’t wait to play my part in that.”

Competitive club rugby is just six weeks away!
 
Connacht Rugby today confirmed the fixtures for the upcoming Connacht Senior League and Cawley Cup with both competitions set to get underway on the weekend of the 14th/15th of August. Fixtures for the Curley Cup, the J2 Cups and the U21 Women’s Rugby Initiative will follow in the next couple of weeks. This comes after the full season plan for men’s Senior & Junior rugby was released last week.
 
There are some exciting changes in the Connacht Senior League and the corresponding Connacht Senior Cup. The five Senor clubs will compete in both competitions. The Senior League will be played as a precursor to the AIL which is in line to start on October 2nd. Teams will play each other once only in the Senior League with each team playing two home games and two away games. The team who top the table at the end of the 5 rounds of matches will be crowned the Senior League champions. However, in a change from the norm the Senior League winners will now also qualify for the IRFU Bateman Cup semi-finals, but that’s not all. The Senior League winners will also qualify directly for the Connacht Senior Cup Final, a move that is sure to add extra excitement to the league.
 
The remaining four teams will compete in de facto quarter-finals and semi-finals post-Christmas for the remaining place in the Senior Cup Final. The pairings for the Senior Cup quarter-finals will be determined by finishing positions in the Senior League. i.e. 2nd vs 5th & 3rd vs 4th. The teams who finish 2nd and 3rd in the Senior League will have home advantage in these cup quarter-finals. The overall rationale for structuring the Senior League & Senior Cup in this way is to spread games equally across the season. This ensures senior teams don’t play more than 4 weekends in a row without a break.
 
Fixtures for the Cawley Cup have also been confirmed. The Cawley Cup will again follow a pool based format which was introduced ahead of the curtailed 2020/21 season. The eight J1A teams will be joined by Dunmore RFC and NUIG RFC from J1B. The 10 teams will be split into two pools. Teams will play each other once only in their pool. The top two teams in each pool will qualify for the Cawley Cup semi-finals. The 3rd & 4th placed teams in each pool will qualify for the Cawley Plate semi-finals.
 
The Curley Cup and J2 Cups will also follow the pool based system again in the 2021/22 season. The fixtures for both competitions will be released by mid-July once all entries are confirmed. The Cawley Cup will get underway on the weekend of the 14th/15th of August while the Curley Cup and J2 Cups will kick off a week later. The Junior Leagues are then set to return from early October with fixture details to be announced in due course.
 
CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE ADULT MEN’S SEASON PLAN 2021/22
 
Connacht Senior League Fixtures
 
Round 1 14.08.2021
Sligo RFC v Buccaneers RFC
Ballina RFC v Galway Corinthians RFC
 
Round 2 21.08.2021
Buccaneers RFC v Ballina RFC
Galwegians RFC v Sligo RFC
 
Reserve Weekend 28.08.2021
 
Round 3 04.09.2021
Galway Corinthians RFC v Galwegians RFC
Sligo RFC v Ballina RFC
 
Round 4 11.09.2021
Ballina RFC v Galwegians RFC
Buccaneers RFC v Galway Corinthians RFC
 
Round 5 18.09.2021
Galway Corinthians RFC v Sligo RFC
Galwegians RFC v Buccaneers RFC
 
Cawley Cup Fixtures
 
Pool 1
 
Round 1 15.08.2021
Creggs RFC v Castlebar RFC
Buccaneers RFC 2nd XV v Monivea RFC
 
Reserve Weekend 22.08.2021
 
Round 2 29.08.2021
Monivea RFC v Creggs RFC
Castlebar RFC v NUIG RFC
 
Round 3 05.09.2021
NUIG RFC v Buccaneers RFC 2nd XV
Monivea RFC v Castlebar RFC
 
Reserve Weekend 12.09.2021
 
Round 4 19.09.2021
NUIG RFC v Monivea RFC
Buccaneers RFC 2nd XV v Creggs RFC
 
Round 5 26.09.2021
Castlebar RFC v Buccaneers RFC 2nd XV
Creggs RFC v NUIG RFC
 
Pool 2
 
Round 1 Score Score 15.08.2021
Tuam RFC v Connemara RFC
Sligo RFC 2nd XV v Westport RFC
 
Reserve Weekend 22.08.2021
 
Round 2 Score Score 29.08.2021
Westport RFC v Tuam RFC
Connemara RFC v Dunmore RFC
 
Round 3 Score Score 05.09.2021
Dunmore RFC v Sligo RFC 2nd XV
Westport RFC v Connemara RFC
 
Reserve Weekend 12.09.2021
 
Round 4 Score Score 19.09.2021
Dunmore RFC v Westport RFC
Sligo RFC 2nd XV v Tuam RFC
 
Round 5 Score Score 26.09.2021
Connemara RFC v Sligo RFC 2nd XV
Tuam RFC v Dunmore RFC
 
Semi-finals W/E of 6th/7th Nov. 2021
 
Final W/E of 11th/12th Dec. 2021

Head Coach Richie Murphy has named his Ireland U20s Match Day squad, sponsored by PwC, for Thursday’s U20 Six Nations Round 3 encounter against England at Cardiff Arms Park (Kick-off 8pm, RTÉ Player/RTÉ News Now and Six Nations YouTube for UK viewers).
 
Ireland opened their Championship campaign with bonus-point wins over Scotland and Wales, and Murphy has made two changes in personnel to his starting XV for Thursday’s showdown with England in Cardiff.
 
Temi Lasisi and Sam Illo return to the front row as the Ireland management continue to carefully manage resources and the squad’s workload, with Alex Kendellen once again captaining the side from the back row.
 
Murphy has selected an unchanged backline as Jamie Osborne, Ben Moxham and Chris Cosgrave line up in the back three, with Connacht duo Cathal Forde and Shane Jennings continuing their midfield partnership.
 
Nathan Doak, who scored 20 points and was named Player of the Match for his performance against Wales last time out, is retained at scrum-half, with Tim Corkery named to start at out-half.
 
Lasisi and Illo pack down either side of hooker Ronan Loughnane, while the second row pairing of Alex Soroka and Harry Sheridan remains unchanged. Kendellen is joined in the back row by Donnacha Byrne and Oisin McCormack.
 
Murphy has plenty of options on his replacements bench, including Chay Mullins, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme and is named in the Match Day squad for the first time.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Murphy said: “We have been pleased with our start to the Championship, but we know we must continue to make improvements week-on-week, starting on Thursday evening against a very strong England side. The squad have worked incredibly hard on optimising our recovery in between matches and we go into Thursday’s game confident that we are moving in the right direction.”
 
Ireland U20s (v England):
 
15. Jamie Osborne (Naas CBS/Naas RFC/Leinster)
14. Ben Moxham (Larne High School/Ballymena RFC/Ulster)
13. Shane Jennings (Garbally College/Buccaneers RFC/Connacht)
12. Cathal Forde (Colaiste Iognaid/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
11. Chris Cosgrave (St. Michael’s College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
10. Tim Corkery (St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny/UCD RFC/Leinster)
9. Nathan Doak (Wallace High School/Banbridge RFC/Ulster)

1. Temi Lasisi (CBS Enniscorthy/Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
2. Ronan Loughnane (Cistercian College Roscrea/UCD RFC/Leinster)
3. Sam Illo (Wesley College/Old Wesley RFC/Leinster)
4. Alex Soroka (Belvedere College/Clontarf RFC/Leinster)
5. Harry Sheridan (Sullivan Upper School/Dublin University FC/Ulster)
6. Donnacha Byrne (Summerhill College/Sligo RFC/Connacht)
7. Oisin McCormack (Garbally College/Buccaneers RFC/Connacht)
8. Alex Kendellen (PBC Cork/UCC RFC/Munster)(Captain)

Replacements:

16. Eoin de Buitléar (Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin/An Ghaeltacht/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
17. Jack Boyle (St. Michael’s College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
18. Mark Donnelly (CBC Cork/Garryowen FC/Munster)
19. Mark Morrissey (Blackrock College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
20. Reuben Crothers (Wallace High School/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
21. Conor McKee (Sullivan Upper School/Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster)
22. Ben Carson (Wallace High School/Banbridge RFC/Ulster)
23. Jude Postlethwaite (RBAI/Banbridge RFC/Ulster)
24. Jack Kelleher (PBC Cork/UCC RFC/Munster)
25. Daniel Okeke (Ardscoil Ris/Shannon RFC/Munster)
26. Chay Mullins (SGC Filton/Bristol Bears/IQ Rugby).

Tom Daly and Beibhinn Parsons took home the flagship awards at the 2020/21 Connacht Rugby Awards which were held virtually last week.
 
In lieu of a physical award ceremony, accolades were announced across the week on the Connacht Rugby social media channels, starting and finishing with the Fans’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year which were both won by Tom Daly.
 
Daly, who is hoping to make his Ireland debut in the coming weeks, was nominated alongside Gavin Thornbury and Niall Murray for the Fans’ Player of the Year by the Connacht Clan. As well as winning that award, he was also chosen by his squad mates as their standout player in the 2020/21 season.
 
Meanwhile Beibhinn Parsons won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the first time. She was nominated alongside his Connacht teammates Nichola Fryday and Laura Feely, after all three played a part in the Women’s Six Nations campaign.
 
The final major award of the week was Academy Player of the Year which was won by Cian Prendergast. The backrow enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Pro squad, featuring 10 times and earning his first senior contract in the process.
 
The winners will receive their Galway Crystal commissioned award once pre-season training gets underway in the coming weeks.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY AWARD WINNERS 2020/21

Fans’ Player of the Year sponsored by Genesys – Tom Daly

Players’ Player of the Year sponsored by Heineken Ireland – Tom Daly

Women’s Player of the Year sponsored by Intersport Elverys – Beibhinn Parsons

Academy Player of the Year sponsored by Corrib Oil – Cian Prendergast

Try of the Year sponsored by Red Bull – Sean O’Brien (vs Scarlets)

#NeverStopCompeting Moment of the Year sponsored by Bank of Ireland – Peter Sullivan (vs Ulster)

Photo of the Year sponsored by Tribe Hospitality – Bundee Aki & Alex Wootton (vs Ospreys)

Following the conclusion of the domestic seasons in England and France, EPCR is pleased to confirm the format and qualifiers for the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup as Europe’s elite club tournament is set to return with a highly competitive schedule of 71 matches.
 
The Heineken Champions Cup will once again be competed for by 24 clubs with eight representatives from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP 14 having secured their places. (See qualifiers and rankings below)
 
The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B – by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over nine weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December when Stade Toulousain begin the defence of their title.
 
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022. (See key dates below)
 
The draw for the pools will be carried out on the same lines as last season with the clubs separated into four tiers, and clubs from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.
 
The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs will be in Tier 2, the number 5 and 6 ranked clubs will be in Tier 3, and the number 7 and number 8 ranked clubs will be Tier 4.
 
The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage, as will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.
 
The pool draw will be live streamed on HeinekenChampionsCup.com and the date of the event as well as further details will be communicated shortly.
 
As previously announced, EPCR is currently putting the finishing touches to a new shareholder agreement, and discussions to finalise the Challenge Cup format for the 2021/22 season, as well as the formats for the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for future seasons, are ongoing.
 
These discussions include the future participation of South African clubs in EPCR’s tournaments as referenced recently by the United Rugby Championship and no further comment will be made until the appropriate time.
 
2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup qualifiers
Gallagher Premiership: 1 Harlequins, 2 Exeter Chiefs, 3 Bristol Bears, 4 Sale Sharks, 5 Northampton Saints, 6 Leicester Tigers, 7 Bath Rugby, 8 Wasps
Guinness PRO14: 1 Leinster Rugby, 2 Munster Rugby, 3 Ulster Rugby, 4 Connacht Rugby, 5 Scarlets, 6 Ospreys, 7 Cardiff Rugby, 8 Glasgow Warriors
TOP 14: 1 Stade Toulousain, 2 Stade Rochelais, 3 Racing 92, 4 Union Bordeaux-Bègles, 5 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 6 Stade Français Paris, 7 Castres Olympique, 8 Montpellier Hérault Rugby
 
2021/22 key dates
Round 1 – 10/11/12 December
Round 2 – 17/18/19 December
Round 3 – 14/15/16 January 2022
Round 4 – 21/22/23 January 2022
Round of 16 (1st leg) – 8/9/10 April 2022
Round of 16 (2nd leg) – 15/16/17 April 2022
Quarter-finals – 6/7/8 May 2022
Semi-finals – 13/14/15 May 2022
Challenge Cup final – Friday 27 May 2022; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 28 May 2022; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille

Following wide ranging consultation, the Age Grade Fixture Plan for the 2021/22 season has been released by Connacht Rugby.
 
The document sets out a schedule for all Youths and Schools rugby between August and May, taking into account Leagues, Cups and Plates across the student calendar.
 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PLAN

Connacht Rugby regret to announce that flanker Sean O’Brien has been advised to retire from rugby on medical grounds following a concussion injury.
 
A Galway native, O’Brien came through the Connacht Academy having represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level. He was also named captain of the Ireland U20s for the 2014 Junior World Championships.
 
He made his pro Connacht debut away to Enisey-STM during the 2015/16 Challenge Cup, and came off the bench in the Guinness PRO12 Grand Final that same year. A first senior contract soon followed and in total he has made 60 appearances for his home province.
 
Sean O’Brien has released the following statement:
 
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Connacht Rugby for making a young boy’s dream come true. The memories and friendships made will last a lifetime.
 
I’d also like to thank all those in Wegians, Roscrea and Calasanctius who played their part in making it possible, and in particular my Dad Iain who coached me throughout my youth.
 
Not everyone gets a fairytale ending but I will never forget just how lucky I was to be a part of this club.
 
I am looking forward to cheering in the stands.
 
Sean”

 

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