Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made one change to the starting line-up for the second Test against New Zealand which takes place on Saturday at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

Mack Hansen is introduced on the right wing to play alongside James Lowe and Hugo Keenan in the backfield.

Captain Johnny Sexton will again be partnered by Jamison Gibson Park at half-back while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose continue their centre partnership.

The pack is unchanged from the first Test in Auckland with Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong in the front row and Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan at lock.  Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris are named in the backrow.

Rob Herring and Finlay Bealham, who were ruled out of the first Test, return to be named amongst the replacements alongside Cian Healy, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Bundee Aki.

The second Test against New Zealand will be broadcast live on SKY and RTE Radio. (8.05am IST)

IRELAND v New Zealand
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday 9th July, 2022
KO: 8.05am Irish Time

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 21 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 58 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 13 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 106 caps CAPTAIN
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 18 caps

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 44 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 58 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 31 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 44 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 85 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 18 caps

Replacements
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 26 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 116 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 23 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 6 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 28 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 97 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 33 caps
23. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 38 caps

If keeping fit, having opportunities to travel, taking part in a lively social scene or getting an adrenaline rush is your idea of a great pastime, then rugby refereeing could be for you.

Below we talk to Connacht referee, Siobhán Daly, who was nominated for the Referee of the Year gong at this season’s Connacht Rugby Awards.

***

Where did your referee journey start?

I had to stop playing rugby due to concussion so I began refereeing touch and tag rugby, and when the timing felt right I signed up to the IRFU refereeing course.

What made you want to be a rugby referee?

I love the game and missed being a part of it. I also enjoy the challenge of learning and staying fit – wish I had known the laws better as a player!

Outside of being a referee, tell me a little about yourself?

I work as a psychologist in children’s services and I’m a mum. I really enjoy sport for the social and competitive side; it’s a great mix for me.

What has been your proudest moment as a rugby referee?

Many moments – getting on the pitch and doing it, refereeing or being a part of an officiating team for a high stakes match, managing a tough game well. I found being at the sportsground for the youth cup finals, especially the girls, unexpectedly emotional this year. All the teams, dedicated coaches and such a big crowd in support. Lovely to see after the covid break.

What has been your biggest challenge in your journey so far?

Being sleep deprived from a baby (then toddler) not sleeping at night, managing breast-feeding and making sure everything is sorted for when I’m away.

Has there been anything that surprised you?

Mostly how enjoyable it is. I didn’t expect that. Also humorous moments that can occur when something unexpected happens on the pitch. And when you see the respect and support between players, especially when a team has lost or is losing – it’s good for the soul.

What does a typical day as a referee look like?

Double checking I have everything needed in the gear bag and watches charged up, eating and hydrating well, going over specific competition regulations, and finding the venue in plenty of time (making sure I have not turned on ‘avoid main routes’ in Google maps; this has happened!) Then it’s going through the pre-match bits and pieces – checking the pitch/tech zones, team sheets, players boots/nails, talking with the captains, warming up, etc. Afterwards it’s making sure any needed paper-work is completed, and hopefully finding a nice coffee for the drive home.

Is there anything difficult about the role? 

For me it’s the niggling feeling after a match when I think or know I got a call wrong or could have made a better decision. Getting your positioning right on the pitch helps hugely – you can only ref what you see. It’s good to have supportive links with other experienced referees or players for days I feel more human. Mistakes are great for learning and can make your next match better.

What is your rugby back story?

I traded dance and boxing shoes for rugby boots at 30, happily. I was lucky enough to have been part of an AIL win with Galwegians and played touch and tag rugby. From my involvement in the theatrical world to having a noisy baby at home, reffing rugby just seemed like a natural progression, and good for my head!

Any advice for people who are considering becoming a referee?

Do it. Do any refereeing you can, it all helps build confidence. Get support from people who help you improve. Do the training course, learn the laws and especially at the beginning, try not to take too many breaks between fixtures. The momentum of match after match really helps you improve, as does the mentoring.

Refereeing gives you the opportunity to give something back to the game. Rugby referees enjoy the same benefits of the game as the players – without the injuries!

There is more need for referees now than ever!

If you would like to start refereeing and become a member of the association contact IRFU Referee Development Manager Peter Fitzgibbon by phone on 086 8322987 or by email [email protected]

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce the appointment of Michael Kiely to the role of Head of Athletic Performance.

 

Kiely joins the club with a wealth of experience in Athletic Performance across multiple sports. He is perhaps best known for his time with the Limerick senior hurling team, where as Head of Athletic Performance until 2021 he played a key role in the county’s 3 All-Ireland titles in 4 years.

 

More recently Kiely spent last season as Athletic Performance Coach with Ulster Rugby. He has also completed a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Strength & Conditioning.

 

Kiely has replaced David Howarth who has moved on after 5 years in the role. Everyone at Connacht and the IRFU thanks David for his huge contribution to the club and wishes him every success into the future.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has announced the team that will take to the field at Eden Park in Auckland in the first match of the three-Test Series against New Zealand.

Jonathan Sexton will captain the side, which includes ten of the starters from last November’s 29-20 home win over the All Blacks, and is partnered at half-back by Jamison Gibson-ParktT

Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw combine again in midfield for the 2022 Triple Crown winners, while Keith Earls backs up from the Māori All Blacks match to start in the back-three.

With Mack Hansen sidelined due to Covid-19, the Limerick man has won the battle for the right wing berth, with James Lowe on the left and Hugo Keenan stationed at full-back.

Up front, loosehead prop Andrew Porter returns to international action after missing the final two Guinness Six Nations fixtures through injury.

Dan Sheehan, who lines out against New Zealand for the first time, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan complete the tight five. Beirne steps in for Iain Henderson whose summer tour was ended by a knee injury.

Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony brings plenty of experience to the blindside flanker berth, linking up in the loose forwards with Leinster pair Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.

Bundee Aki, who captained Ireland in Wednesday’s uncapped game, is one of three Connacht players on the replacements bench. Rewarded for his solid form, Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell could win his sixth cap.

Listed as one of the reserve props, Cian Healy is nursing an ankle injury from the defeat to the Māori All Blacks, yet Farrell is ‘optimistic’ that the Dubliner will be fit to be part of the matchday 23.

“I think Cian had a bit more of a scare than anything else,” the Ireland boss said. “He recovered pretty quickly in the changing room after the game.

“He’s still a bit sore this morning. He’s obviously going through a few protocols now with the rehab, etc., but we’re going to give him through to tomorrow. He’s made such improvement, we’re optimistic about that.”

He added: “We’re under no illusions what we’re up against at the weekend. Like I’ve said to you before, any type of performance that we’d have before where we’ve managed to get over the line that won’t do this weekend. I’m sure about that.

“What really wins top level rugby is always going to be the same. Your set piece, our discipline was pretty poor last night – there’s been good chat in and around that – and obviously the accuracy of our game in general.

“So all that needs to come to fruition under extreme pressure. It’s difficult to do, but we’re in a good enough headspace to be able to attack that full on come the kick-off on Saturday night.”

The much-anticipated opening Test in Auckland will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action/Main Event and RTÉ Radio 1. You can follow all the action on our IRFU Live Blog and social channels.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v New Zealand, Eden Park, Auckland, 2022 Summer Tour First Test, Saturday, July 2, kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 12
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) 17
1. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
2. Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
4. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40
8. Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
17. Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
18. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
20. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
21. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
23. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37

Ireland 2022 Summer Tour Fixtures:

Māori All Blacks 32 IRELAND 17
FMG Stadium, Hamilton

New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2, kick-off 8.05am Irish time

New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9, kick-off 8.05am Irish time

Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12, kick-off 8.05am Irish time

New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16, kick-off 8.05am Irish time

Ballinrobe RFC is the latest club to benefit from The Connacht Rugby Player Development Award. 

The fund was created to show recognition for the work being done at mini, youth and school level by the Connacht Rugby club and school network. Almost €150k has been issued to clubs and schools around the province as part of the initiative. 

The initiative works by awarding the relevant Connacht Club and/or School on foot of the player having started 15 times for the Connacht Pro team. Ballinrobe RFC received €10k this past week to celebrate clubman, Mathew Burke, achieving this goal. 

Ballinrobe RFC

The fund was initiated in 2019, however, at that time, a decision was also taken by the Connacht Rugby Board to pay out to our clubs and schools retrospectively for players they would have brought through their systems in the past, right back to the Johnny O’Connor/Gavin Duffy era.

This financial award system helps the Connacht clubs and schools to continue to grow the game at the grassroots level in their respective areas, with the hope that many more talented home-grown players will follow through into the Connacht Senior professional team.

Thus far, nine Connacht clubs and seven Connacht schools have benefited.

Creggs Sarah Purcell put in an excellent performance as Connacht u18s scored an 11-try to one victory over North American touring side Celtic Barbarians. 

Outhalf Purcell controlled the game well in blustery but dry Sligo conditions. Tuam-Oughterard combo Beibhinn Gleeson and Laura Hastings each scored twice, and US-bound Giselle Gallagher (Sligo) added three conversions.

Sligo local Eva White opened the ledger from the wing six minutes in, the tourists beaten for numbers wide out left. Stand-in captain Karly Tierney (Tuam-Oughterard) bumped the board over again at 14min for a 10-nil lead before Gleeson’s first three minutes later. Hastings and Purcell both scored for the hosts, before the Barbarians capitalised on a Connacht clearance error and missed tackle in the danger zone to close a 31point deficit right on half-time, the score then 31-5 at the break.

Where the Connacht Under18s did all of their first-half damage into a stiff breeze, a tail-wind at Connacht’s back in the second did not bode well for the visitors and Tierney’s crew piled on six more, with prop Roisín Maher (Creggs) and another U16 flyer Emily Foley (fullback) joining Gleeson, Purcell and Hastings with tries of their own.

Flanker Ailish Quinn made life difficult for the Barbarians on both sides of the ball, carrying strongly throughout, and hooker Nadine Fitzmaurice was busy on attack and defence, distributing well in close quarters to keep the ball alive. Locks Rhona O’Dea and Hastings showed great mobility as fourth and fifth loose forwards putting their hands up for selection come interpro crunchtime in August.

Connacht assistant coach Luke O’Donnell commended the tourists on their athleticism and determination post-match, and stressed that while the Connacht U18 squad was without four of its Irish hopefuls, there was greater cohesion and familiarity among the girls in green than the Barbarians who drew from various spots over Canada and the US.

“We have very high hopes for this Connacht squad,” he said, “so it’s a big ask for a touring side to land in without any matches under their belt and take on the province’s most promising youngsters. That said, there was no shortage of obvious individual talent among the Baa-baas, but we’re very happy to have chalked up a win and seen a few of ours put in good shifts too whom we hadn’t seen much of to date”.

 

Connacht U18 Training Squad 61 (Eva White, Karly Tierney, Beibhinn Gleeson (2), Laura Hastings (2), Sarah Purcell (3), Roisín Maher, Emily Foley tries; Giselle Gallagher conv (3); beat Celtic Barbarians Tour 2022, 5 (one try). HT: 31-5.

As part of our aims to raise LGBT+ awareness in the West of Ireland for Pride Month, Connacht Rugby spoke to Rosie Dore, Chairperson of OutWest.
 
OutWest is a voluntary social and support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans gender people in the West of Ireland.
 
CR: Talk to me about OutWest and the work that you do.
 
RD: OutWest is an organization that has been running for 25 years since 1997. We’re a social advocacy and support group, and we run many different events throughout Connacht. It started off here in Mayo, but we spread out to Sligo, Galway, Leitrim, and recently Roscommon as well.
 
We have a number of social events, so a lot of those are very important for people who are feeling isolated, but also just to bring the community together to be able to make friends.
 
We have a very wide age range at our events, from teenagers and young people to elderly people, and we also have people from other marginalized communities that have come in as well, so that’s very important.
 
We also hold educational events pretty frequently as well. So yesterday, for example, we held a seminar event on how employers can be more LGBTQ inclusive in their workplace, and that worked really well, because we had different speakers from companies that were LGBT inclusive. So it was really informative on what can be done to make positive changes. We’ve also got another seminar coming up for teenagers and young adults covering LGBT issues, as well as one for parents.
 
We also have our drop-in centre which is open every Sunday in Castlebar Co. Mayo, and this is a nice, friendly, safe and inclusive space for people to drop in and have a chat and a cup of coffee.
 
We also have a rapid HIV testing service there now as well, which is really good. So it means that people can get results quickly in a confidential, safe kind of space, where they can get that support.
 
We also work in conjunction with LGBT Ireland for their helpline, so if anyone needs to talk to someone there’s a volunteer trained ready to talk to them. So we have quite a lot going on!
 
That’s fantastic. Have you found more people are now reaching out to OutWest, particularly over the last few years?
 
Yeah definitely. I only joined OutWest last year but from what I’ve heard from the previous chairperson, and from what I’ve seen myself there has been an increase. COVID maybe slowed things down a bit, but there has been a big increase in things like the drop-in centre. At the start there weren’t many people turning up but we’re now seeing more and more regular users and that word is spreading. We’re also getting more interaction on social media and things like that.
 
How do you find Connacht as a province and the West of Ireland in terms of its support for the LGBT community?
 
Personally I only moved here last year so my experiences have been very new, but I have found it way more positive compared to where I lived in the UK, where there wasn’t much in the way of LGBT resources at all. So coming here I was like “wow there’s regular events”, and not just for Pride Month. So it’s amazing, I really wanted to be a part of that.
 
That being said, I do know friends for example who have not had great experiences. For example I have a friend who is a trans woman and she says she gets harassed walking down the street on a regular basis. I think that must be terrifying because she’s only young and the kind of things that are said to her are just awful. The awful recent attacks in Sligo also really hit home for us – it was quite personal. So I think in some ways, it’s great to know there’s so much going on, but there’s always those little things lurking in the background, especially in more rural areas, where people get isolated as well.
 
So I think it’s really important to have those connections and make sure people are being reached out to.
 
This month we had the Leinster player Nick McCarthy talk openly about his sexuality. How beneficial is it for the LGBT community to have people in the public eye talk about their experiences?
 
It’s very encouraging. From what I can tell and hearing people talk, people still associate sports like football and rugby to be masculine dominated with a macho-type feel, and unfortunately there’s a lot of LGBT people who have been put off sports. So seeing that on the sporting side is encouraging, knowing that people have a role model to look up. Similarly people outside of sport, they can all inspire hope to people who are having a bad time. It’s definitely a positive yeah.
 
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
 
I would love to ask people to just be mindful of people around you if they’re struggling. I’ve known other people that would use slur words an awful lot and they would say it’s just joking or banter. But for many people, even little things like that make you question everything. So even if you hear those things you’re not 100% sure if they’re joking or not. There’s always that little part that feels a bit unsure, and it’s not very nice. So I’d ask for awareness of how best to support people and be mindful of their environment.
 
Particularly in team sports that can make a big difference. If you’re all working together, the more relaxed and more at ease with each other you’ll be, which will ultimately make you happier and hopefully play well.
 
Pronouns is an important topic to talk about as well and how best to address that. Aside from being just basic good courtesy it can also have a huge impact on how comfortable and accepted a person feels when playing and interacting with others; but that if you do slip up and get them wrong, there’s no need to make a big deal about it and cause awkwardness, just correct yourself and move on.
 
To learn more about OutWest check out their website www.outwest.ie. You can also follow them on Twitter @OutWestLGBT, Instagram @OutWest.ie, or Facebook @OutWestLGBT.
For support call 094 9372479 or 1800 929539, or for more information call 087 9725586, or email [email protected]
You can also donate to OutWest to help support the vital services that they offer – this can be done in any of the above contacts.

The pool draws for the European Challenge Cup competition was held in Dublin today with our opponents confirmed.

Connacht Rugby were drawn in Pool A where we will take on CA Brive Rugby and Newcastle Falcons both home and away.

2022/23 weekends 

Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022

Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022

Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023

Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023

Round of 16 – 31 March/ 1/2 April 2023

Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023

Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023

EPCR Challenge Cup final – Friday 19 May 2023 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Connacht Rugby with Total Health Pharmacy Summer Camps are back!

Our first camps of the summer get under way today in both Sligo RFC and Ballinrobe RFC, with great fun being had by all.

Other camps throughout the province are still taking bookings and they will go on until August 10th. For more information, click here. 

Each camp is a mix of 1 day and 3 events, running from 9.30am – 1pm. Camps are open to all children, both girls and boys, from ages 6-12 years and no rugby experience is necessary.

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