Connacht’s age grade squads start their inter-provincial series with a double-header of games against Ulster sides.

These fixtures will take place in Newforge, Belfast on Sunday, August 21st. Connacht U18s will first take on Ulster Clubs U18 at 1.30pm. The U19 side will then challenge their Ulster counterparts at 3.30pm.

They will be followed by games against Leinster representative sides the following weekend, with UL hosting Connacht’s final games of the series against Munster teams.

A full list of match details, as well as upcoming challenge games, is listed below. 

Challenge Games:

Friday August 12:

Munster U19 v Connacht U19                        11hrs               University of Limerick

Munster U18 Clubs v Connacht U18              14.30hrs          University of Limerick

Munster U17 Schools v Connacht U17           16.30hrs          University of Limerick

Wednesday August 24:

Connacht U17 v Munster U17 Clubs              14hrs               Creggs RFC

Inter Provincial Series:

Sunday August 21

Ulster U18 Clubs v Connacht U18                  13.30hrs          Newforge, Belfast

Ulster U19 v Connacht U19                            15.30hrs          Newforge, Belfast

Saturday August 27

Connacht U18 v Leinster U18 Clubs               13hrs               Buccaneers RFC, Athlone

Connacht U19 v Leinster U19                         15.30hrs          Buccaneers RFC, Athlone

Sunday September 4

Munster U18 Clubs v Connacht U18              12.45hrs          University of Limerick

Munster U19 v Connacht U19                        15hrs               University of Limerick

 

Round 1 U18 Girls’ Interprovincial Series 2022
27thAugust Connacht vs Munster 14.00 Corinthians RFC
Ulster vs Leinster 15.00 Newforge
Round 2 U18 Girls’ Interprovincial Series 2022
3rdSeptember Munster v Ulster 15.00 Musgrave Park
4thSeptember Leinster vs Connacht 15.00 Energia Park
Round 3 U18 Girls’ Interprovincial Series 2022
10thSeptember Munster vs Leinster 14.30 Musgrave Park
Ulster vs Connacht 15.00 Newforge

 

Connacht Rugby can announce that so far a 13-player squad has been assembled for this season’s Connacht Academy.
 
There are six Year 1 additions, including U20 Six Nations winner Matthew Devine and his brother John, both of whom came through the ranks at Garbally College and Ballinasloe RFC.
 
Also included is Ballina RFC’s Harry West and a trio of Ireland U20 Six Nations winners – Daniel Hawkshaw (brother of new Pro arrival David Hawkshaw), Oisin Michel and Leitrim native Shane Mallon.
 
Moving up to Year 2 are Sligo’s Hubert Gilvarry, Buccaneers RFC duo Will Reilly and Josh O’Connor, and prop Bart Vermeulen.
 
Completing the squad so far are Year 3 players Eoin de Buitléar from An Cheathrú Rua, Sligo native Donnacha Byrne, and prop Charlie Ward.
 
Further players may be added as the season progresses.
 
Year 1
Matthew Devine – Scrum-Half
John Devine – Centre
Daniel Hawkshaw – Centre
Shane Mallon – Centre
Oisin Michel – Prop
Harry West – Out-Half
 
Year 2
Hubert Gilvarry – Scrum-Half
Josh O’Connor – Back Three
Will Reilly – Scrum-Half
Bart Vermeulen – Prop
 
Year 3
Eoin de Buitléar – Hooker
Donnacha Byrne – Back Row
Charlie Ward – Prop

Shane Mallon is one of the new faces around Connacht Rugby having joined the academy setup this season.

Born in a small village called Bornacoola of South Leitrim we sat down with Shane on his arrival to The Sportsground.

Tell us a little bit about where you are from?

I’m from Bornacoola which is right at the bottom of Leitrim.

Beside Bornacoola is Dromod which is the main hub of Bornacoola as you have the football pitch there where everything goes on in the parish.

Dromod is a hot spot for summer homes and it’s right on the River Shannon so there’s a lot of activity going on especially around this time of year.

Its very much a tight nit parish where everyone knows each other.

My mother is from Cavan and all that side of the family live in Cavan and then my Dad is from Boornacoola where all his side still live in Bornacoola.

My Grandad is my next-door neighbour, next house up is my godfather and cousins.

How popular is rugby in Leitrim?

Gaelic football has always been the main sport in the county followed by soccer and a tiny bit of hurling.

When I started playing rugby there was very little rugby going on in Leitrim but it is growing which is great to see.

There was no club in Carrick on Shannon when I started off but there is now but beforehand most people who wanted to play rugby would have gone to Sligo or like myself play for Longford.

How did rugby start off for you?

I’m very lucky to have such supportive parents who gave me the chance to play rugby and take on anything I wanted as a child.

I started playing at the age of four with Longford Rugby club.

Not a lot of people from my area would have played rugby but I can see now its growing with more joining clubs.

Basically how it started for me was my two older brothers were very keen to start playing rugby.

They were six and eight starting in Longford and I was very interested in tagging along with them so that’s basically how I got started.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played Gaelic football with Bornacoola the whole way up and I played hurling with Carrick on Shannon.

I think every kid should play multiple sports.

Up until the age of 16 or 17 there’s no problem with playing more than one sport because all it does is improve skills.

Who are the rugby players you look up to?

The biggest one as a kid was Brian O’Driscoll.

For every kid in Ireland when we were four, five or six he was one of the best players in the world.

He just had everything and after any Ireland match you would go out the back trying to be like him.

Nowadays you see wingers like Cheslin Kolbe who shows you don’t have to be that big guy to play rugby and that there’s a place for everyone in the sport.

What sporting stars from Leitrim inspired you?

There’s a couple of sprinters like Eanna Madden who would have played 7’s so seeing someone like him from my county helped my confidence knowing Leitrim people do get oppourtunities to shine.

How big is it for young kids in Leitrim to see local lads reaching such high levels of sport like rugby, athletics or soccer?

It’s massive for young kids in Leitrim to see fellow Leitrim stars doing well on a national or world stage because we don’t have a lot of them compared to most other counties.

There’s huge pride in the county seeing one of our own shine and I remember when Eanna Madden made the 7’s originally it spurred something in me to go watch more rugby matches and the want to get better at the game.

Talk us through your rugby journey so far.

I played in Longford till I was 15 and then joined the regional development squad called midlands in Leinster.

I moved to Roscrea for Transition Year and spent three years at the school. I knew I had to go to Roscrea if I wanted to improve my game.

I played seconds rugby in TY and then pushed on in 5th and 6th year. From there I started to get into Leinster development squads.

It was in 6th Year where you started to get call ups to International squads?

At the end of 6th Year I was selected to go play with the Irish U18’s schools team at the U18’s 6 Nations. Sadly though I never got to play with Ireland at U18 level because of Covid.

The first time I got to wear an Irish jersey was in the U20 6 Nations.

Call up to the U20 side

I got a call for the Christmas camp in 2021. I knew this was my opportunity to show what I could do because injuries had got in the way of previous camps I was hoping to be part of.

The week leading up to the camp I was so excited but unfortunately the day before going I got Covid. My whole parish of Boornacoola was badly hit at the time

Its hard to put into words the emotions going through me when I knew I couldn’t make the camp and to make it worse it ruled me out of the next camp.

I thought my chance was gone.

Come mid January I played a match for my club in Dublin where I played really well and trained well with Leinster around that time where I was lucky enough to get called into the Irish camp a week before the squad was announced for the U20’s 6 Nations.

Thankfully no setbacks leading into that camp and after it I felt I trained well.

I was told I was in the squad for the 6 Nations so the first thing I did was ring my parents.

The following week on the Monday the match day squad for the first game of the 6 Nations was picked. I remember looking at the board and seeing if my name was among the players on the bench and then next of all I move my head over and I see my name beside 11.

My heart was throbbing and I was saying to myself how has that happened.

I remember beforehand speaking to my dad saying I’ll be lucky to get on the bench because I’ve only had one week with this team but to then ring him and my mam that I made the starting team was special.

Was everyone in Bornacoola rugby mad during that time?

My dad was telling me people who he hasn’t spoken to in a long time came up to him asking about me and how I got on for Ireland.

Some of those people may never have watched a game of rugby before but knowing a local guy is playing at that level brings more interest.

Hopes and ambitions with Connacht?

I’m currently out injured but I’m so committed to coming back stronger as I really want to push my game on here at Connacht.

When the call came from Eric Elwood about joining I was delighted because it is my home as I am from Connacht.

As a Leitrim man a big ambition of mine is to see Leitrim sport grow and hopefully I can be a small part of that.

Connacht is a great place to develop as a player and the coaching standard is amazing so its just a case of trying to push up the ranks for me.

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht assistant attack and skills coach Mossy Lawler says that working with the Westerners’ technically skillful squad of players has been an exciting element of his opening months of coaching with the senior squad. 

 

After six years in a role in the academy, Lawler — a native of Limerick and a former Munster and Wasps player — was promoted into the senior coaching ticket by head coach Andy Friend this past summer. 

 

Given Connacht’s preference for a quick, attacking game plan, Lawler says that his ideas on rugby and those of fellow coaches, Friend, Peter Wilkins, Dewald Senekal, and Cullie Tucker, are aligned and it has led to a highly productive coaching environment at the Sportsground. 

 

“It comes down to the identity that’s here,” the former UL Bohemians coach said. 

 

“That’s how we want to play the game here. That’s how the three past coaches and their vision of the game ties into that identity. From that point of view, it streams down from the top and there’s great alignment to how we want to play the game and execute those skills of the game over and over again in the heat of battle.”

 

The Westerners’ playing personnel all possess a strong skill base and polished technique and having this basis to work from, Lawler says, is exciting. An added benefit is their willingness to learn and push themselves to improve, which he describes as absolute. 

 

“When Andy approached me last year to potentially step up and work with the pro and work side by side with Pete(Wilkins), you’d be a fool to say no to that offer.

 

“When you look at the talent in the group and the backline in the group and the players that we have there, it is really, really exciting. And getting to implement what you want, in relation to patterns and maps, and knowing that these players can deliver that for you on a Saturday is exciting. 

 

“Working with Pete Wilkins, side by side, and putting those plans into place, irrespective of opposition or in occurrence with the opposition to see what weaknesses or strengths they have, it’s a great job.”

 

Alongside Lawler, Connacht freshened up their coaching ticket last summer by promoting Cullie Tucker — also from the academy — and hiring Dewald Senekal from the French Top14. 

 

Despite the newness of their working relationship, Lawler says they work seamlessly together — a factor which is helped by their similar views of the game — and that the fruits of their labour are already clear and will continue to grow over the course of the season. 

 

“That’s the environment that Andy and Pete provide. Andy isn’t a boss that stands over you and tells you what to do, he lets you get on with your job and for me as a young coach coming in that’s absolutely brilliant and Pete just puts everything together. 

 

“We all have similar thoughts on how the game should be played and what and how, and that current alignment is great. Dewald has come in and has fit in seamlessly in relation to his role and Cullie and I have always worked together. 

 

“It comes from the top, the environment that Andy and Pete have created is excellent and it makes it easier for that alignment to happen.”

 

Having worked in both the academy and with the first team, Lawler is well-positioned to judge Connacht’s present prospects and indeed their future aspirations. 

 

Thanks to the club’s commitment to development — which comes from the CEO Willie Ruane down the playing and coaching side of the club — the Limerick man, who highlighted the brilliant role played by the club scene and its volunteers in the province, is confident that the Westerners will continue to grow and improve. 

 

“There’s a great crop coming through,” the assistant attack and skills coach said of the young talent in Connacht’s academy. 

 

“You could see in last summer’s U20 Six Nations how exceptional some of the guys are. You have the likes of Cathal Forde, the likes of Shane Jennings, Donnacha Byrne, and Oisin McCormack. Darragh Murray, Niall’s brother, didn’t make the squad through injury but, again, a really, really exciting prospect and all indigenous as well which is a big positive. 

 

“From that point of view, it will be really exciting to get them up to training soon and to see where they go from there and it would be great to see these guys fulfill their potential. 

 

“It’s the people,” Lawler says of the driving force behind Connacht Rugby — from the amateur clubs all the way to the professional set up — and their collective hunger to grow the game in the province.

 

“The first time that I moved up here, I was blown away by the people and when you have those individuals who are willing to work hard — through thick and thin — no matter what’s thrown at them, you get your results and that, for me, is the most pleasing part of all.”

 

The Connacht Rugby Academy Squad for 2021/22 can be confirmed.
 
Included are the six indigenous Connacht players who represented Ireland in the U20 Six Nations squad this summer, as well as new Year 1 recruits Will Reilly and Josh O’Connor.
 
Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood says:
 
“We are really pleased with the talent we have in the Academy squad this season. Six players gained huge experience on the international scene over the summer which is a testament to their development the past few years. This was Connacht’s highest ever representation at this level which speaks volumes of their quality.
 
The lack of club & schools rugby last season has proved a challenge for us all, but with our U18s and U19s competing in the Interpro Series, more players both in and out of our Academy will gain vital playing time and given an opportunity to impress.
 
There’s been plenty of changes behind the scenes with new staff and structures to help support our Pathway players, so we’re really excited by what can be achieved in the years ahead.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY ACADEMY SQUAD 2021/22
 
Declan ADAMSON – Hooker
Ciaran BOOTH – Back Row
Donnacha BYRNE – Back Row
Eoin DE BUITLÉAR – Hooker
Cathal FORDE – Out-Half/Centre
Shane JENNINGS – Centre
Diarmuid KILGALLEN – Back Three
Oisin MCCORMACK – Back Row
Darragh MURRAY – Lock
Josh O’CONNOR– Back Three
Will REILLY – Scrum-Half
Charlie WARD – Prop

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).

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are thrilled to announce the appointments of Andrew Browne and Mark Sexton to the roles of Elite Player Development Officer (EPDO).
 
As an EPDO, Browne and Sexton will manage and operate the elite player development programmes in the Connacht Academy. Their appointments come after the announcement that EPDOs Mossy Lawler and Colm Tucker will move to the Professional coaching team from the 2021-22 season.
 
Andrew Browne is a familiar face to Connacht Rugby supporters, having represented the province 156 times across an 11 year career after coming through the Connacht Academy pathway. A Galway native and a member of Galwegians RFC, Browne was a member of the squad that won the 2015-16 Guinness PRO12.
 
Since ending his career in 2018 Browne has gained valuable coaching experience, acting as Head Coach for Galwegians RFC and Assistant Coach to the Connacht U19s.
 
Mark Sexton joins Connacht Rugby following many years’ experience as a player and coach in Ireland. He is currently attack and backs coach for Leinster U19s, St. Mary’s RFC and St. Mary’s College SCT. He enjoyed a distinguished playing career at St. Mary’s RFC also, playing in the AIL for 10 years and winning a Division 1 title in 2012.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood says:
“I am delighted to welcome Andrew and Mark to Connacht Rugby and to our Academy team. They are two young coaches who have played the game at a high level and have become students of the game, gaining valuable coaching experience with schools, clubs, and Age Grade teams in their provinces. I am very much looking forward to working with these two highly motivated individuals and I have no doubt they will add great value to our environment at Connacht Rugby.”
 
Peter Smyth, Head of Elite Player Development at the IRFU says:
“It is great to get another two young coaches appointed to important pathway positions. They have garnered experience in the club and schools game as well as with provincial representative teams. Their experience of working with young players and their knowledge of the club and schools landscape will be beneficial in their new roles.”
 

As Elite Player Development Officer for Connacht Rugby, Colm Tucker is at the heart of the development of young adult rugby players in the province.
 
Along with his day-to-day work with the Connacht Academy, Tucker is also forwards coach of the Ireland U20s setup who, while they have been disrupted by COVID, have strung some impressive results together in the last two years of the U20 Six Nations.
 
ConnachtRugby.ie spoke to him about his work with the international setup, his job with the Academy and what Connacht supporters can look forward to in the years ahead.
 

You’ve been an Elite Player Development Officer since last August. Tell us what the role entails and what your day-to-day schedule is like in unusual circumstances.
 
My principal job revolves around identification and development of the forwards for the Connacht Academy. Day-to-day we would work on collective sessions technically, and then one-on-one sessions individually with them as well. What’s also very important is building habits with them around training and training reviews which are obviously online now, and the use of our Hudl system and Sportscode to get clips in and out to them. I also sit as part of an interdisciplinary team with my objectives and goals around the rugby department with Mossy Lawler. It’s a very holistic approach to player development – we have an Athletic Performance department, a physio department, a personal development & lifestyle department and a nutrition department so it’s a very player centred approach where we work collaboratively from the pitch out.
 
From my point of view, while my responsibility centres around rugby, all of us are working towards that same north star of making these guys professional rugby players. For instance if a player has a positional requirement like increased strength or power, then it’s about me tying in with the Athletic Performance and Nutrition teams to make sure he’s getting the right information so he can be more effective on the pitch. I’d also collaborate with Aidan O’Flynn on personal development to develop the mental aspects of their game, like a hooker having a throw process, slowing their heart rate etc. So we’re all pointing towards the same thing but it’s a very collaborative approach.
 
The last thing that closes off the loop which Eric Elwood is very big on in the Academy, is that players have something outside of rugby. One if unfortunately, they don’t make it they’ll have something to fall back on, and secondly if they do become professional players they have something to fall back on when their careers come to an end. So it’s a dynamic and challenging environment but I really enjoy the day-to-day aspect of coaching and we have strong relationships with the Professional coaches as well which is brilliant. I think the biggest strength of Connacht Rugby is its people and we have to provide accurate information to the coaches about players, and that relationship is a really strong part of Connacht.
 
You’ve been involved with the Ireland U20s for a while now as well, so how have you found that experience so far?
 
It’s brilliant. It’s the flagship team for the IRFU pathway in terms of players. It’s the last point for them to put on a green jersey before they hopefully move on to the Professional ranks in the four provinces. From my point of view I was appointed three weeks before the Argentina World Cup in 2019 so I’m very thankful to have a very supportive family at home who got behind it straight away and Connacht Rugby were the same. It is challenging and rewarding, it is demanding but it is very, very enjoyable at the same time. You’re preparing teams and players to proudly play in some of the most demanding matches they’ve ever played in.
 
While it’s competitive and you want them to perform, you still can’t take your eyes away from the fact that it’s still a pathway team and the environment has to be a massive learning environment. They’re still young, progressing and developing so there’s a dual-purpose role to it, but it’s been an unbelievable experience, first with the World Cup and then managing to secure that Triple Crown before COVID hit us last year. In terms of my own journey as a coach it’s probably been the highlight so far, and hopefully there’s much more to come.
 
There was a large number of Connacht players called into an U20 camp before the postponement of this year’s Six Nations, so that must say a lot about the work being done here?
 
The lads that we have in the U20s this year were involved in the Connacht team that were successful in the U18 interpros a few years back for the first time in 10 years. They formed the backbone of that team and it’s great to see them progressing every year. Every challenge we’ve thrown in front of them they’ve risen to it and that’s what you want to see from the players.
 
Our job is to stretch them and keep challenging them and see how they react to those stresses, and it’s our job as coaches to see if they have the minerals to be professional rugby players. So yes, even though they had that success at U18s, that came from being brilliant trainers, having a great work ethic and always wanting to get better. The U20s is the next stepping-stone for them so it’s going to be brilliant to see how they react to that environment and fight for that jersey. So I’m very excited about the potential in the group so far this year.
 
What’s the most pleasing aspect of working with that age group of young adult players from 18-21?
 
I think it’s everything. They’re like sponges in that they soak up everything, so I feel that day-to-day it’s very rewarding in watching them grow and get better. I’m also very big on relationship building. I really enjoy getting to know them, their backgrounds and what they’ve come from. I really enjoy getting to know what motivates them and involving them in their plans because I think that’s really important for the modern young man.
 
At the end of the day seeing those players succeed and train with the Pro squad if asked is a brilliant part of our job, but for me it’s also about the little things. It’s the day-to-day grind of working hard with them and all those one percenters add up to seeing them progress and move on.
 
Finally, are Connacht supporters right to be excited about what’s coming down the line?
 
Absolutely they are. There’s huge potential in our Academy at the moment. As I’ve said already it’s a group of players who have consistently met challenges that we’ve put in front of them whether that be matches or training. I think in a year or two they’re going to be knocking on the door up the line and pushing people for places which is exactly what Andy Friend and his coaching ticket want. He wants his Professional squad looking over their shoulders at the Academy lads coming up and pushing for their places which will create a better environment.
 
I think it’s also very important when talking about the Academy to also mention the work that’s being done at grassroots level with the volunteers. It’s a huge opportunity for a population of half a million people in the West of Ireland to have a professional rugby team. I worked for 9 months initially as a Coach Development Officer when I first came to Connacht and I met some wonderful people around the province and in that Club & Community department. So I’ve seen first-hand the work that goes in on the ground and the volunteers who bring kids in when they’re six or seven, and work hard with them to make them love the game. I’ve also seen the next steps when they come in the Connacht pathway at aged 15 and the work that the CDOs do with them. Getting to the Academy is then the next step in their journey.

Connacht Rugby can confirm the 16 players who have so far been named in the Connacht Academy squad for the 2020/21 season.
 
Eight players will join the Year 1 programme, five of whom are Connacht-born and were part of the Connacht squad that won the U18 Club Interprovincial Championship in 2018.
 
They are Donnacha Byrne, Hubert Costello, Eoin De Buitléar, Cathal Forde and captain Darragh Murray.
 
Joining them in Year 1 is prop Charlie Ward, lock Cian Prendergast and back row Ciaran Booth.
 
Oisín McCormack and Shane Jennings, who also featured in the U18 squad of 2018, move to Year 2 of the Academy along with Declan Adamson.
 
Year 3 features local boys Colm De Buitléar, who has recovered from a serious achilles injury he sustained last summer, and U20 Grand Slam winner Dylan Tierney-Martin.
 
They’re joined by Oran McNulty – who started at full-back in all three of this year’s U20 Six Nations games for Ireland – as well as Joshua Dunne and Seán O’Brien.
 
Further additions may be confirmed in the coming months.
 
Year 1
Donnacha Byrne
Ciaran Booth
Hubert Costello
Eoin De Buitlear
Cathal Forde
Darragh Murray
Cian Prendergast
Charlie Ward

Year 2
Declan Adamson
Shane Jennings
Oisin McCormack

Year 3
Colm De Buitlear
Joshua Dunne
Oran McNulty
Seán O’Brien
Dylan Tierney-Martin

Connacht Academy player Oran McNulty has been named at full-back for Ireland’s U20 Six Nations opener against Scotland tomorrow night.
 
McNulty, who is in Year 2 of the Academy system, is one of four Connacht players in the overall Six Nations squad alongside Joshua Dunne, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Cathal Forde.
 
Ulster Academy back row David McCann will captain Ireland as one of five players who featured during last season’s Grand Slam-winning campaign named in McNamara’s first starting XV of the Championship, alongside Charlie Ward, Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny and Thomas Ahern.
 
There is a wealth of experience in the pack with Clontarf loosehead Ward and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart packing down in the front row alongside Leinster Academy tighthead and vice captain Clarkson, who started all five of last year’s Six Nations games.
 
Deeny and towering Munster Academy lock Ahern are named in the second row with Sean O’Brien and Mark Hernan joining captain McCann in the back row to complete the pack, with a further three Ulster players named in the backline.
 
Lewis Finlay starts at scrum-half and continues his exciting half-back partnership with Cork Constitution out-half Jack Crowley, who pulled the strings for Ireland Under-20s in their defeat of Munster Development over Christmas.
 
Ulster Academy centre Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme, are selected in midfield, with Connacht’s Oran McNulty, Ethan McIlroy and Leinster winger Andrew Smith forming the back three.
 
Hooker John McKee won seven caps during last season’s Six Nations and U20 World Championship campaigns and is the sixth returning player named in Friday’s matchday 23, as he provides front row cover alongside Ciaran Ryan and Ryan McMahon.
 
Joe McCarthy and Alexis Soroka will hope to make a big impact off the bench if called upon, while Ben Murphy, Tim Corkery and Luis Faria complete McNamara’s first selection of the 2020 season.
 
“The players have prepared very well since we first came together before Christmas,” McNamara said. “We had an excellent camp last week in Cork and are looking forward to the challenge that Scotland will bring this Friday night.
 
“Getting back down to Irish Independent Park is exciting for all involved. It’s a fantastic venue, a really fast surface and we’re ready to get the campaign underway in front of a partisan home crowd.”
 
Tickets for Friday night’s visit of Scotland to Irish Independent Park are available here.
 
Ireland Under-20 Team (v Scotland):
15. Oran McNulty (Millfield School / Corinthians RFC / Connacht)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Methody College / Queens RFC / Ulster)
13. Dan Kelly (Kirkham Grammar / Loughborogh University / IQ Rugby)
12. Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
11. Andrew Smith (St Michael’s College / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
10. Jack Crowley (Bandon RFC / Cork Constitution FC / Munster)
9. Lewis Finlay (Down High School / Malone RFC / Ulster)

1. Charlie Ward (Tullow RFC / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
2. Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
4. Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
5. Thomas Ahern (Waterpark RFC / Shannon RFC / Munster)
6. Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College / UCD RFC / Leinster)
7. Mark Hernan (St Michael’s College / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
8. David McCann (RBAI / Banbridge RFC / Ulster)(captain)

Replacements:

16. John McKee (Campbell College / Old Belvedere / Leinster)
17. Ciaran Ryan (Rockwell College / Cashel RFC / Munster)
18. Ryan McMahon (Clongowes Wood College / Old Belvedere RFC / Leinster)
19. Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
20. Alexis Soroka (Belvedere College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
21. Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
22. Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
23. Luis Faria (Newpark Comprehensive / Dublin University FC / Leinster)

More at https://www.irishrugby.ie/2020/01/30/mcnamara-names-ireland-under-20-team-for-six-nations-opener/

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