• New partnership brings Fastway and Connacht Rugby together for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons, in a two-year deal
• As Official Delivery Partner, Fastway will provide tailored logistic solutions to Connacht Rugby
• New partnership looks to deliver “A future of success. Driven by all, shared by all”.
 
Connacht Rugby has today announced its partnership with Fastway, Ireland’s leading independent delivery network, as the Official Delivery Partner for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.
 
The partnership will see Fastway deliver specialised and tailored delivery solutions for Connacht Rugby over a two-year period.
 
“Connacht Rugby’s vision begins with participation and culminates in inspiration. Along the way community, drive, passion, performance, and teamwork, play a part, before fulfilling a dream. This vision aligns perfectly with Fastway; our values, heritage, and purpose”, said Danny Hughes, Fastway CEO.
 
“Fastway operates a unique business model in the Irish market, where we have inspirational local entrepreneurial franchisees fulfil their potential. Today, across the Connacht region, we’re proud to have such a significant operational presence, hundreds of local entrepreneurial franchisees, and extensive customer relationships. Our shared vision and values make this partnership such an exciting and perfect fit.”
 
Hughes added, “I’m truly delighted that we’ve signed a partnership agreement to become the Official Delivery Partner of Connacht Rugby and wish Andy Friend, Peter Wilkins, the team and dedicated fans, every success in the season ahead.”
 
The timing of the partnership with Connacht Rugby comes at a very exciting time for Fastway, as it celebrates 20 years in the Irish market and aligns with a major business transformation programme.
 
20 years of celebrating “People, Planet, and Communities” and now, Ireland’s leading independent delivery network, handling over 24 million parcels annually, as the carrier partner for over 10,000 Domestic and International clients.
 
Philip Patterson, Head of Commercial and Marketing at Connacht Rugby said: “We’re so delighted to welcome Fastway into our partnership family. This partnership is an exciting one, given our shared values and vision. Working with an organisation where they are so connected to the Connacht region, the local community, and where sustainability is at the heart of their organisation, is so important to us. We’re looking forward to the future and how together, we will deliver.”

The Connacht Rugby Governance and Nominations Committee is now inviting applications for the volunteer role of Chairperson of the Club & Community Rugby Committee.
 
The successful candidate will sit on the Board of Connacht Rugby for a three year term with an option to be appointed for a further three years.
 
Process
 
Candidates should please submit cover letter which sets out their motivation in applying for this position and their experience having regard to the above competencies and requirements, together with an up-to-date CV to [email protected]
The closing date for applications is Tuesday 3rd January 2023 and interviews shall be held on Tuesday 10th January.
 
For full details on this position click on the link below.
 
Chairperson of Club & Community Rugby Committee
 
Should you have any questions or require any further information please email [email protected]

CONNACHT 38-19 BENETTON

A man-of-the-match performance from Paul Boyle helped Connacht to a deserved bonus point win over Benetton at The Sportsground this afternoon.

Tries from Niall Murray, Boyle, Finlay Bealham and Caolin Blade were enough to give Connacht the five points in what was the first game under the new Sportsground lights.

The cliché would be that Connacht needed a good start to justify the favourites tag, and that’s exactly what they did in the first 5 minutes. Following a good defensive set, a line break from Niall Murray on the half-way line brought Connacht deep into the 22, and the Roscommon man found an excellent turn of pace to touch down beside the posts. Carty added the extras and Connacht found themselves a converted try ahead.

Not for the first time this season Connacht’s try concession came out of nothing, as the ball squirted out of a ruck on the sideline and Benetton had a two on one which was capitalised by Marcus Watson to level the game.

The second quarter was dominated by the hosts as they added 10 more points to scoreboard, but they could’ve and arguably should’ve added more. Paul Boyle got Connacht’s second of the game with a lovely first phase move off a 5 metre lineout, and Carty added two more. Multiple more visits to the Benetton 22 followed for the rest of the half but Connacht were unable to capitalise, with a mixture of penalty concessions and the ball held up inside the Benetton line.

Eventually the captain decided to take the points on offer and Carty added a penalty to make it 17-7 at the break.

Whatever was said in the Connacht dressing room at half-time paid dividends as the squad came out all guns blazing. Some excellent attacking phases brought them a few metres short, and this time they didn’t repeat the mistakes of the first half as Finlay Bealham touched down under the sticks.

Unfortunately any momentum they were hoping to build from there didn’t materialise, and it was arguably the hosts who were on top for the rest of the quarter. A second try followed as a result of a line break deep inside the Connacht half along the Clan Stand side, and after some repeated penalties Marco Zonan added the five for the visitors.

Any hope of a Benetton comeback was effectively ended when Scott Scrafton received a red card for a high challenge on Dylan Tierney-Martin, and it didn’t take long for Connacht to make the extra man count as Caolin Blade crossed over for the vital fourth try.

The gloss was then added by Tierney-Martin for his first home try for the club, powering over past the 80th minute.

Mack Hansen has recovered from injury that he picked up on Ireland duty to line out for Connacht in tomorrow’s BKT URC meeting with Benetton at The Sportsground (k/o 3.15pm).
 
His return is one of six changes to the side that started against Munster last week, with Niall Murray, Oisín Dowling, Paul Boyle, Kieran Marmion and Diarmuid Kilgallen all coming into the squad.
 
The experienced front row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Murray and Dowling make up the lock pairing. Paul comes in at number 8 with Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver retained on the flanks.
 
Captain Jack Carty is named alongside Marmion while the centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell is unchanged. Hansen starts on the left wing, with John Porch at full-back and Kilgallen on the right wing for his first appearance of the season.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“Last weekend was another frustrating performance for various reasons, and whilst our intent and attitude were excellent, the bottom line was that we didn’t deliver our best performance. That said, I was pleased with the way the players dug out a bonus point which could be crucial at the end of the season.
 
Tomorrow we’re back at the Sportsground against a very confident Benetton team. If we wish to be the victors at the end of 80 minutes, we must bring a level of energy and physicality that we know that we’re capable of for the full game. We are a team that is creating plenty of opportunities, we just need to be better at capitalising on those.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Saturday 3rd December, 15:15 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (67)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (8)
13. Tom Farrell (84)
12. Bundee Aki (120)
11. Mack Hansen (19)
10. Jack Carty (185) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (216)
1. Denis Buckley (216)
2. Dave Heffernan (172)
3. Finlay Bealham (180)
4. Oisín Dowling (32)
5. Niall Murray (41)
6. Cian Prendergast (34)
7. Conor Oliver (48)
8. Paul Boyle (80)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (10)
17. Peter Dooley (6)
18. Jack Aungier (39)
19. Gavin Thornbury (69)
20. Jarrad Butler (101)
21. Caolin Blade (155)
22. Tom Daly (65)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (209)

A Kieran Marmion try in the final few minutes secured a losing bonus point for Connacht in Friday night’s BKT URC interpro at Thomond Park.
 
Connacht enjoyed the better spell of possession and territory in the opening 10, and they were rewarded with a penalty on the Munster 22 which Carty took full advantage of to open the scoring.
 
However the good work was undone in a sloppy restart, with a kick charged down and resulting knock-on forcing a scrum 10 metres from the Connacht line, and Munster went down the short-side for the opening try of the game.
 
Connacht’s opening try began with an excellent break from Tom Farrell deep inside his own half, bringing the side well into Munster territory. Against a tiring defence Caolin Blade opted for a kick to the corner, and as the hosts passed along their tryline Byron Ralston produced a moment of magic to grab the intercept and score his first try in Connacht colours.
 
Connacht’s lead was to be short-lived, as Munster got the maul going for their second try of the game in the far corner. Joey Carbery’s tough conversion was missed, leaving the teams tied at the interval.
 
Both sides couldn’t be separated in the opening moments of the second half, but the decisive moment came on 48 minutes when John Porch was shown a yellow card for obstruction when Carbey had kicked into the Connacht tryline. While the visitors battled valiantly to keep Munster scoreless during that period, Munster’s breakthrough eventually came through John Ryan to make it 17-10.
 
Munster’s effective maul then allowed them to stretch their lead to 14 points and it looked like Connacht would be leaving with nothing to show for it. However Andy Friend’s side dug deep in the final quarter to secure the losing bonus point, with Kieran Marmion the player to touch down after good work from the forwards.

Six Connacht players who were with the Ireland squad in November have come into the starting lineup for tomorrow’s interpro with Munster in Limerick (k/o 7.35pm).
 
Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade and Bundee Aki are all named in the starting lineup, as the squad aim to make it three straight wins in the BKT URC.
 
Denis Buckley joins Heffernan and Bealham in the front row while Josh Murphy is selected alongside Thornbury in the second row. Prendergast is named at blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver at openside and Jarrad Butler at number 8.
 
Captain Jack Carty continues at out-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. The side is completed by wingers Alex Wootton and Byron Ralston, and full-back John Porch.
 
On the bench there’s a notable return for Shane Delahunt, who has recovered from an 8-month injury layoff for a potential first appearance of the season. The management team have opted for a 6:2 split, meaning Niall Murray, Oisin Dowling and Paul Boyle could all be called upon.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“Everyone had ten days off after the Ospreys game which I think was needed for coaches and players. Now that we have everyone back it’s all eyes on Munster for the start of an important ten week block for us, and we’re well positioned for these games going forward.
 
Munster away at Thomond Park is never an easy task but I thought we were close last year and the previous year we won there. You can’t just rock up to Thomond and think you’re going to win, you’ve got to work your backside off and bring an element of physicality along with accuracy in what you are doing”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 26th November, 19:35 @ Thomond Park
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (66)
14. Byron Ralston (6)
13. Tom Farrell (83)
12. Bundee Aki (119)
11. Alex Wootton (37)
10. Jack Carty (184) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (154)
1. Denis Buckley (215)
2. Dave Heffernan (171)
3. Finlay Bealham (173)
4. Josh Murphy (5)
5. Gavin Thornbury (68)
6. Cian Prendergast (33)
7. Conor Oliver (47)
8. Jarrad Butler (100)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (117)
17. Peter Dooley (5)
18. Jack Aungier (38)
19. Niall Murray (40)
20. Oisín Dowling (31)
21. Kieran Marmion (215)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (57)
23. Paul Boyle (79)

Connacht Rugby can confirm Director of Rugby Andy Friend will depart the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.
 
Andy Friend has released the following statement:
 
“My wife Kerri and I have made the decision that our time at Connacht Rugby will finish at the end of this season. This was always on the cards when I signed my two-year extension in 2021, and one that I discussed openly with Willie and Connacht Rugby.
 
It’s certainly not an easy decision to make as we have both genuinely loved everything about our time here in the West of Ireland. From the minute we arrived we were welcomed with open arms and made to feel very much a part of the community and the rich history of the Club.
 
I am very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve both on and off the field as a Team since our arrival, and am driven to do everything in my power to ensure this season is the best one yet.”

 
CEO Willie Ruane has paid tribute to Andy and his impact since 2018:
 
“We’ve been fully aware from when Andy signed his last contract extension with us, that this would be his last, and that he would be moving on at the end of this season. While we are sad to see him go and he will be sorely missed across the organisation, we are very thankful for all he has done for the province in the past five seasons, both on and off the field.
 
In that time, he has led us to many successful days, buying into the Connacht ethos and brand of rugby while overseeing significant changes to our Professional player & coaching profiles.
 
He also embraced life in the West of Ireland, engaging fully with our grassroots clubs around the province and all levels of our Player Pathway Programme. That is evident in the number of players that Andy has promoted from our Academy to make their Connacht debuts in recent years.
 
I’d like to wish Andy, his wife Kerri and the rest of their family every health and happiness for the future.”

 
Andy Friend is in his fifth season at Connacht, having spent four seasons as Head Coach before moving to a Director of Rugby role for 2022/23.
 
His first season in charge included a historic win over Ulster in Belfast, the first for the club in 58 years, with Connacht going on to reach the PRO14 playoffs and securing Heineken Champions Cup qualification.
 
The 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons were dominated by the impact of COVID-19 on and off the field. However further Champions Cup qualification was ensured in both years, with 2021 featuring a 2nd place finish in Conference B and a win over Leinster in Dublin for the first time in 18 years.
 
Last season saw the club reach the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time in our history.
 
In total he has been in charge for 105 games, helping the team to 51 wins while overseeing significant changes to both the playing squad and coaching setup.
 
51 players were handed their Connacht debuts under Friend, with 21 of those having come through the Connacht pathway system.
 
Connacht Rugby will now commence a process to appoint a replacement for Andy and we will make a further announcement on the outcome of that process when we are in a position to do so.

  • High Performance Centre and new North Stand to be built in Phase 2
  • Two-year construction scheduled to begin in 2023
  • Phase 1 to be completed in November with installation of new LED floodlights

Connacht Rugby can confirm it is taking the next steps in our historic redevelopment of The Sportsground, with the commencement of a Public Procurement Process for Phase 2.
 
Phase 2 includes the construction of a High-Performance Centre and new North Stand with the procurement process taking approximately six months, prior to the commencement of a two-year construction programme in 2023.
 
Construction will begin with the build of the new High-Performance Centre consisting of a new indoor training pitch as well as state-of-the-art athlete and staff facilities.
 
Upon completion, work will then immediately begin on the new North Stand. This Stand will replace the existing Clan Terrace and will consist of a mixture of standing, seated and hospitality options with top-class facilities for players, supporters, partners and media. The North Stand will have a capacity of over 7,000 supporters and is currently scheduled to be completed in time for the 2025/26 season.
 
The redevelopment of The Sportsground began in May 2022 with Phase 1 consisting of a new synthetic playing surface and LED floodlighting system. The pitch was completed on-schedule in September with the new floodlights to be installed next month.
 
The redevelopment is supported by the Department of Tourism Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media’s Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF). The LSSIF is designed to support projects where the grant sought is greater than the maximum available under the Department’s Sports Capital and Equipment Programme. The first allocations under the LSSIF were announced in January 2020 and included funding towards The Sportsground redevelopment.
 
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D. stated:
 
“I want to congratulate everybody involved in bringing the project to this stage. Your vision and commitment will ensure that Connacht Rugby has a new home that everybody concerned will be justifiably proud of.”
 
The Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers T.D. added:
 
“This is another important step in the delivery of what will be a superb new facility in Galway. My Department will continue to work closely with Connacht Rugby to ensure the passionate Connacht fans have this excellent new stadium open for business as quickly as possible”.
 
CEO of Connacht Rugby, Willie Ruane says:
 
“This week’s commencement of the Public Procurement Process for Phase 2 continues the positive momentum of The Sportsground redevelopment project. We have already seen the positive impact Phase 1 has had on our players’ and fans’ experience of The Sportsground and we are excited about what Phase 2 will further deliver in this regard over the coming years. On behalf of everyone associated with Connacht Rugby I would like to once again take this opportunity to thank the government for their very significant support of this project, without which none of this would be possible.”

Connacht Rugby players Jack Carty, Alex Wootton and Diarmuid Kilgallen recently joined JP Gilmartin Partner in Charge of RDJ’s Galway office to highlight RDJ’s continued partnership with Connacht Rugby.
 
The firm has been a long standing official legal advisor for the club.
 
Philip Patterson , Head of Commercial & Marketing at Connacht Rugby commented,
 
“We’re delighted to renew our long standing partnership with RDJ. As Official Legal Partner to Connacht Rugby, RDJ provide us with invaluable support in our day-today operations. The expert counsel at RDJ gives us the ability and confidence to focus on our core business of growing the sport in the province.’’
 
Partner in Charge of RDJ’s Galway office, JP Gilmartin said:
 
“Our firm has a long history with Connacht Rugby and we look forward to working alongside them as they continue their progress on and off the pitch.”

CONNACHT 36-14 SCARLETS

Two tries from Mack Hansen and a Player of the Match performance from Conor Oliver helped Connacht to a deserved bonus point win over Scarlets at The Sportsground this evening.

The story of the first half could be summarised by excellent Connacht play to get themselves on the scoreboard, but almost immediately followed by scores for the visitors that were easier to come by.

The home side couldn’t have asked for a better start as they crossed the whitewash within the first 60 seconds. With Scarlets attempting to kick from the base of a ruck, Niall Murray used every inch of his frame to get the charge down and cross for his third try for Connacht and first of the season. Within minutes the visitors were on the scoreboard with a penalty as conditions worsened, and for the remainder of the first quarter it came down to who handled the weather better. Despite the wind and rain, Connacht and their captain Jack Carty were more than happy to take the three points when the opportunity arose, and it was the number 10 who landed a difficult penalty to stretch the lead back to 5 points.

Scarlets’ first try of the came after a sustained period of kick-tennis when MacNicholl spotted a gap out wide to release Steff Evans.

Connacht’s lead was stored on 28 minutes after another difficult penalty was slotted over by Carty, but again barely 2 minutes later the Scarlets were level after they were awarded a penalty in front of the Connacht posts. However Connacht’s second try was to follow as the clocked ticked towards the 40, as a lovely pass out wide from Carty to Hansen – almost a carbon copy of the try against Munster – brought the gap to 5 points and that’s how it remained at the break.

Unlike the first half, the second half took a while to get going, but the Connacht Clan were in full voice on 56 minutes when Jack Aungier powered over for this third try of the season, despite a yellow card to Paul Boyle. A further Scarlets penalty reduced the gap to 7 points, but the 10 point lead was restored when David Hawkshaw took over kicking duties and slotted over his first penalty of the day.

The deserved bonus point came with 7 minutes to go when the excellent Connacht forward pack got the maul going metres from the Scarlets line, and after persistent penalties the referee ran to the sticks and awarded a penalty try.

The fifth and final try of the day was Connacht at their attacking best, as they used the extra man to their advantage to play it wide and Carty released Hansen with an excellent kick towards the Scarlets tryline and the winger used his pace to send the crowd into raptures.

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