Bundee Aki and Conor Oliver have both been named in the starting XV to face Bristol Bears in Sunday’s pre-Christmas Heineken Champions Cup clash at The Sportsground (k/o 5.30pm).
 
Their inclusions are the only changes Andy Friend has made to the team that started in last Sunday’s losing bonus point defeat to Racing 92 in Paris. The squad features the same 23 players from that day, with Tom Daly and Jarrad Butler named among the replacements.
 
That means Paul Boyle again captains the side from the number 8 position, while Sean Masterson completes the back row with Boyle and Oliver. Sean’s brother Eoghan and Ultan Dillane again pair up in the second row, and Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham complete the pack.
 
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue at scrum-half and out-half respectively, while Aki is partnered by Sammy Arnold at outside-centre. The back three is again made up of Matt Healy, Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
The Connacht management have kept faith with the same replacements that impressed off the bench in Paris, including the young trio of Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier and Cian Prendergast in the pack.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“While you’re never happy with a defeat, there was a huge amount to like about that performance in France last week. It makes sense for us to stick with those same group of players, so the key thing now is we bring that level of consistency to our game and produce it in week in week out. 14 of this squad of 23 came through the Connacht Academy which says it all about the trust we put in our systems at the club to play back-to-back Champions Cup games of this nature”.
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
“European games under The Sportsground lights are always special occasions so no doubt we’ll miss our supporters again on Sunday. Both ourselves and Bristol know only a win will do if we want to reach the quarter-finals so it should be a great contest and hopefully we’ll come out the right side of the result.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BRISTOL BEARS
Sunday 20th December, The Sportsground, k/o 5.30pm
 
Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (25)
14. Alex Wootton (8)
13. Sammy Arnold (8)
12. Bundee Aki (104)
11. Matt Healy (140)
10. Jack Carty (145)
9. Kieran Marmion (171)
1. Denis Buckley (186)
2. Dave Heffernan (133)
3. Finlay Bealham (145)
4. Eoghan Masterson (98)
5. Ultan Dillane (102)
6. Sean Masterson (6)
7. Conor Oliver (8)
8. Paul Boyle (46) (C)
Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (84)
17. Jordan Duggan (4)
18. Jack Aungier (8)
19. Cian Prendergast (3)
20. Jarrad Butler (63)
21. Caolin Blade (116)
22. Tom Daly (32)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (185)

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defence coach Pete Wilkins says that the Westerners will need to show a high level of game management to win their Saturday 5:15 PM kick off away to the Dragons in the Guinness PRO14.

 

In Connacht’s last game, they left the Scottish capital with a bonus point 37-26 victory over Edinburgh. The win was underpinned by the Sportsground teams excellent exit strategy and efficiency in attack, with scrum-half Caolin Blade and out halves Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly expertly pulling the strings. 

 

Against a mobile and skilful Dragons pack, marshalled by their quality half-back pairing of Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies, Wilkins believes that Connacht will need to show the same qualities that saw them take all five points at Murrayfield on their trip to Rodney Parade.

 

“I thought in that Edinburgh game, it was one of the best examples of game management that this team has produced, certainly in my time here,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“The way our 9’s(Caolin Blade) and 10’s(Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly) controlled the game, with their kicking from our half of the field and their kick selection — of when to go long, when to go for touch, when to go for contestable kicks in the attacking half of the pitch — I thought they managed it really effectively. 

 

“I think their 9 and 10 are really important for them,” Wilkins said of the Dragons’ game plan. 

 

“Rhodri Williams at 9 and Sam Davies at 10, I think both of them have effective kicking games, whether that’s contestable kicks or clearing kicks. It’s not often you see 9’s consistently hitting the half-way line when they’re kicking for touch from rucks or from mauls and Rhodri Williams brings that ability for them to clear their lines really effectively. 

 

“How we can pressure those kicking games will be important. Under their new coaching staff, they’ve got, there’s an organisation about them, an intent to play and if you give them front foot ball they will offload. 

 

“You’ll get show and goes from Sam Davies, you’ll get quick throws and you’ll get offloads from the forwards and little tip ons. Things that will really test our ability to be cohesive in our defence, in terms of being really well spaced and watching the ball really well to make sure that we’re applying pressure. 

 

“The kicking game, the tempo and the improvement in their organisation are the things we will be wary of going into this game,” The Englishman said. 

 

Abraham Papalii’i made his first start of the season in Edinburgh. The New Zealander number 8 made a big impact, carrying for 24 metres from five carries and beating two defenders. Wilkins is excited by the former Rugby League player’s potential and has backed him to continue improving. 

 

“He’s been a great addition to the squad,” the defence coach said. 

 

“The power and physicality — especially around the ball carries — is clear for all to see, even in those few minutes he had in the unfortunate Munster game. With that comes an ability to offload and to get others involved in the game. Certainly that’s something I think we’ll see more and more of as he gets more game time. 

 

“Defensively, very similar to his carrying, he loves to hit hard. He loves to be in the game, to be around the ball and to be contributing. That physicality and that power of the tackle technique is something that, if we can continue to work on the accuracy and consistency of that,  allied with his natural power we can get someone who is a really effective defender. The more he plays the better, from all aspects.”

 

Meanwhile, back-row forward Paul Boyle says that seven of his Connacht teammates being called into the Irish squad for the Six Nations gives him an extra motivation to eventually follow them to international selection. 

 

Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Ultane Dillane and Finlay Bealham were all part of Andy Farrell’s squad for the recently finished Six Nations.

 

The 23-year-old has been an integral part of the Westerners squad since his debut in January 2018 and the Gorey native is confident that — provided he continues to play to a high standard — he can win a place in future Ireland squads. 

 

“If you play well enough, you’re going to be picked,” Boyle said of the path to winning Irish caps. 

 

“I know that if I play well enough here and put in outstanding performances week in and week out that I’m going to get picked. As you can see with the seven guys that we got selected for Ireland, if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get picked.

 

“I just use that as motivation to try and get better every day. It sounds simple, but I try to improve every day and improve every game and hopefully try to force my way into selection.”

There’s a strong Connacht contingent in the Ireland squad for the return of the Guinness Six Nations later this month.
 
Six players from the province are named in Andy Farrell’s 35 player squad, with Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan retaining their place after they were named in the initial Six Nations squad before the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
There’s also a return to the Ireland setup for Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux with the quartet showing some impressive form since the return of rugby.
 
The squad which will be captained by Johnny Sexton contains six uncapped players – Ryan Baird, Ed Byrne, Will Connors, Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson Park. While Baird and Connors have been involved in national camps before it will be a first time with the national squad for the other uncapped players.
 
In addition Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, James Lowe, James Tracy and Fineen Wycherley will train with the squad next week at IRFU High Performance Centre in Dublin. Ireland take on Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 24th October before facing France in Paris the following Saturday (31st).
 
Ireland currently sit fourth on the Six Nations table one point behind Scotland and 4 points behind England and France who have all played an extra game. Back in February Ireland recorded wins over Scotland (19-12) and Wales (24-12) before losing to England (12-24) at Twickenham.
 
Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell commented, “There has been a huge effort right across Irish Rugby to ensure that the professional game could return safely and that work is greatly appreciated by the national management. We have protocols in place to safeguard the welfare of the players and staff and are looking forward to completing the Six Nations Championships.
 
We have two competitions to play in over the coming months but will focus first on a strong finish to the 6 Nations Championships. The return to rugby has not been without its challenges as some players have suffered injury setbacks and there has been limited playing opportunities ahead of a busy and exciting international window. We will be closely monitoring the form and fitness of players competing in the Guinness PRO14 over the coming weeks.

 
Ireland Squad 2020 Guinness 6 Nations Championships Round 4 & 5
 
Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 26 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Jack Carty (Connacht/Buccaneers) 10 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 21 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 9 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) uncapped
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 43 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 24 caps
Kieran Marmion (Connacht/Corinthians) 27 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 3 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 81 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 91 caps CAPTAIN
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 28 caps
 
Forwards (19)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Corinthians) 9 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 2 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 98 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 1 cap
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 55 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 11 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 3 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 67 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
Quinn Roux (Connacht/Galwegians) 12 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 21 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 41 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
 
Training with Squad w/c 12th October
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
James Lowe (Leinster) uncapped
James Tracy (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

By John O’Sullivan
 
Connacht began their 2020/2021 Guinness PRO14 campaign with a 28-24 win over Glasgow
Warriors at the Sportsground.

 
Two tries from Bundee Aki, a try from Quinn Roux and thirteen points from the boot of Jack
Carty accounted for the Westerners points in a hugely physical affair.
 
Glasgow, meanwhile, through Nick Grigg, Huw Jones and Tommy Seymour added three tries of
their own, but the steely defence and attacking efficiency of the hosts saw them claim a
deserved win.
 
Buoyed on by the 200 socially distanced fans in the Sportsground, Connacht started brightly
and opened the scoring when strong defence from Tom Farrell — which would become a
recurring feature — won a penalty in the Glasgow 22. Carty, showing all the calm in the world,
slotted the kick for Andy Friend’s men’s first points of the season.
 
The visitors reacted well to the concession of the penalty and piled the pressure on Connacht,
but — despite their best efforts, with Hasting prominent in attack — the hosts held firm to deny
them a score in a physically ferocious opening half hour.
 
However, the Scotsmen — who enjoyed a man advantage for ten minutes after Roux was sin
binned — eventually made their pressure count on the stroke of half time. Hastings deft offload
found Grigg’s arching angled run and the centre skipped over for a try. Hastings added the
extras and Glasgow went into the break 7-3 to the good.
 
The visitors started the second period in a similar vein and extended their lead further when
Hastings made no mistake off the tee to take the score to 10-3.
 
Connacht grew into the game thereafter and a beautifully worked move saw them opening their
try scoring account for the season in the most brilliant of fashion.
 
An acrobatic offload close to the line from Peter Sullivan kept the move alive and, after a few
phases, Farrell broke through a would be tackle to feed Aki an offload and the Irish international
powered his way over from short range. Carty slotted the conversion to level things up at 10-10.
 
With the wind in their sails, the Westerners — with Alex Wootton and Aki central to their
attacking plans — continued to probe and their persistence was rewarded when Roux, after
collecting a Kieran Marmion pass, smashed his way over for a try. Once again, Carty was
successful with the boot and Connacht found themselves in a deserved 17-10 lead.
 
The game was beginning to have a tit for tat flow and Glasgow were next to cross the white
wash when Scottish international full-back Huw Jones’s sharp line saw him touch down for a try
that Hastings converted to tie the scoreline at 17-17.
 
The lead would change hands once again when Carty, benefitting from a Glasgow offside,
bisected the posts with an excellently struck penalty to set up a gripping final 15 minutes with
Connacht leading 20-17.
 
Defensively, the Westerners back-three were solid throughout but didn’t have much opportunity
to stretch their legs and express themselves in attack. John Porch, however, on a rare foray
forward, started a brilliant move that resulted in Aki dotting down for a try.
 
The former Australian Sevens player fielded a long kick and showed his pace by flying up the
pitch and offloading accurately to Wootton. The winger exploded into space and his clever kick
through was chased by Aki, who — showing a brilliant turn of speed — picked up to go over for
the try. The conversion was narrowly wide, but the try set up a tense finale at 25-17 to the home
team.
 
Glasgow, who Connacht were winless against in their previous six games, responded strongly
and they made it a one point game with their third try. Seymour, the 2017 British and Irish Lions
tourist, showed strong footwork to dive over in the right corner for a try that Hastings converted
to take the score to 25-24.
 
Deservingly, Carty — whose intelligent territorial kicking and accurate place kicking were key
throughout for the hosts — had the final say when he drilled a long range penalty between the
posts to seal Connacht’s win and start their season off on a winning start, 28-24.
 
Connacht team(15-9)
15: John Porch
14: Peter Sullivan
13: Tom Farrell
12: Bundee Aki
11: Alex Wootton
10: Jack Carty
9: Kieran Marmion
(8-1)
8: Paul Boyle
7: Conor Oliver
6: Jarrad Butler(C)
5: Quinn Roux
4: Gavin Thornbury
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Denis Buckley
Replacements; Blade for Marmion, Duggan for Buckley, Aungier for Bealham, Murray for
Thornbury, Masterson for Oliver, Arnold for Aki.

Irish International Bundee Aki will make his 100th appearance for Connacht on Sunday after he was named to start in the Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster at the Aviva Stadium (k/o 4.30pm).
 
Aki joined Connacht in 2014 and has gone on to play a central role in the province’s fortunes since then. He was named Guinness PRO12 Player of the Season in 2015/16, the same year he helped the team to their first ever title.
 
His form was rewarded with a first call-up to the Ireland squad in the 2017 Autumn Internationals. He has been an ever-present member of the squad since then, making 26 appearances and starting every game in the Grand Slam victory of 2018.
 
Elsewhere at least two players will make their Connacht Rugby debuts on Sunday with Alex Wootton and Academy graduate Peter Sullivan both named on the wings. They form a back three with John Porch who slots in at full-back.
 
Tom Farrell will partner Aki in the centre with Irish international Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty forming a formidable half-back partnership.
 
In the forwards there’s a return to action for prop Finlay Bealham after sustaining a serious injury against Edinburgh in February, and he makes up an experienced front-row with Denis Buckley and hooker Dave Heffernan.
 
Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury have been named in the second row, and the starting XV is completed by flankers Eoghan Masterson and captain Jarrad Butler, with Paul Boyle named at number 8.
 
Three more players could make their Connacht debuts off the bench, with props Jordan Duggan and Jack Aungier, and back row Conor Oliver all included.
 
The remainder of the replacements is made up of Jonny Murphy, Niall Murray, Stephen Kerins, Conor Dean and Tom Daly.
 
Connacht Rugby Head Coach Andy Friend says there’s huge excitement about returning to action:
 
“It has been almost 6 months since our last game and 2 months since we commenced pre-season training, so we are delighted our return has finally arrived. I have been really impressed with how the squad as a group have reacted to the uncertainty of the last few months, and it’s now our opportunity to show that hard work against an opposing team.”
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added:
 
“We have selected a squad of 23 that we believe can win this fixture. We have a neat blend of experience & youth, with the potential of five new debutants for Connacht, along with Bundee making his 100th appearance. It’s therefore a special occasion in many ways, and we intend to put out a performance that warrants that.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
16:30, Sunday 23rd August @ Aviva Stadium

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler (c)
8. Paul Boyle

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Jack Aungier
19. Niall Murray
20. Conor Oliver
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Conor Dean
23. Tom Daly

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named the match day 23 to travel to London to take on England at Twickenham on Sunday 23rd February.
 
Captain Johnny Sexton is named in the half-backs alongside Conor Murray. Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw start their ninth Test match as the midfield partnership.
 
Jordan Larmour lines out at fullback with Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale on the wings.
 
Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Tadhg Furlong start a third consecutive Test match with Iain Henderson and James Ryan in the row. CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier make up the backrow combination.
 
The replacements on Saturday are Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Caelan Doris, John Cooney, Ross Byrne and Keith Earls.
 
Tom O Toole and Will Addison will return to Ulster to prepare for their Guinness PRO14 game against the Cheetahs with the rest of the non-matchday 23 remaining in camp for the team’s final training session on Friday.
 
England v IRELAND, Twickenham Stadium, Sunday 23rd February 2020, KO 15.00
2020 Guinness Six Nations Championships
 
15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 23 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 20 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 42 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 25 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 27 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 90 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 80 caps

1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 97 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 10 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 43 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 55 caps
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 25 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 66 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 25 caps
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 40 caps

Replacements:
16. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 2 caps
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 38 caps
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 25 caps
19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 69 caps
20. Caelan Doris (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 1 cap
21. John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 10 caps
22. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 5 caps
23. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 83 caps

Bundee Aki has continued his remarkable run of starting every Six Nations game for Ireland since becoming eligible to play for the country.
 
He’s been named at inside-centre for Saturday’s clash with Wales at the Aviva, making it 12 straight starts in the competition for the Connacht man.
 
Aki made his debut in 2017 November internationals and this weekend will see him line out for the 25th time in the green of Ireland.
 
There are two changes to the starting XV from the Scotland game and one uncapped player included in the replacements.
 
In the back-row Peter O’Mahony comes in for Caelan Doris who was injured in the early minutes of the game last Saturday. CJ Stander reverts to No. 8 with Josh van der Flier named at openside.
 
Iain Henderson and James Ryan start in the second row and the front row is unchanged with Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Tadhg Furlong all named.
 
Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will both reach significant milestones this weekend with the scrumhalf set to win his 80th and the captain winning his 90th cap.
 
The hand injury picked up by Garry Ringrose means that Robbie Henshaw will partner Aki in the centre.
 
The back three of Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour is also unchanged.
 
The uncapped Max Deegan is included in the replacements which also sees the return of Keith Earls.
 
Ronan Kelleher, who won his first cap off the bench against Scotland, is named alongside Andrew Porter and Dave Kilcoyne, subject to him completing his Return To Play protocols this week.
 
Devin Toner, John Cooney and Ross Byrne complete the 23.
 
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Wales, 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, February 8, kick-off 2:15pm):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 22 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 19 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 41 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 24 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 26 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 89 caps Captain
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 79 caps
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 96 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 9 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 42 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 54 caps
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 24 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 65 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 24 caps
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps

Replacements:
16. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 1 cap
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 37 caps
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 24 caps
19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 68 caps
20. Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps
21. John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 9 caps
22. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 4 caps
23. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 82 caps

Bundee Aki will make his 24th appearance for Ireland this weekend after he was named at inside-centre for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
 
Former Ireland U20 Captain Caelan Doris will make his Ireland debut on Saturday evening when he lines out at No. 8. The Leinster man is joined in the backrow by CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier.
 
The front row is made up of Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Tadgh Furlong with Iain Henderson and James Ryan named at lock
 
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is joined at half-back by Conor Murray. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are named in the centre with Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway on the wings. Jordan Larmour is named at full-back.
 
The other uncapped player is Ronan Kelleher (pictured below with Rob Herring) who is named as the replacement hooker. Kelleher is joined in the replacements by Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne and Robbie Henshaw.
 

Ireland Team & Replacements (v Scotland, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday 1st February 2020, KO 16.45)

15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 18 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 28 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 23 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 25 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 88 caps Captain
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 78 caps

1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 95 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 41 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 53 caps
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps
6. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps
8. Caelan Doris (UCD/Leinster)*

Replacements:
16. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)*
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 36 caps
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps
19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 67 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 64 caps
21. John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps
22. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps
23. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 40 caps

*Denotes uncapped at this level

IRELAND Guinness Six Nations 2020 Fixtures & Kick-off Times

IRELAND v Scotland
Saturday 1st February, 2020, Aviva Stadium, KO 16:45
IRELAND v Wales
Saturday 8th February, 2020, Aviva Stadium, KO 14:15
England v IRELAND
Sunday 23rd February, 2020, Twickenham Stadium, KO 15:00
IRELAND v Italy
Saturday 7th March, 2020, Aviva Stadium, KO 14:15
France v IRELAND
Saturday 14th March, 2020, Stade de France, KO 20:00

Connacht 7

Toulouse 21

Toulouse ran out 14 point winners in Connacht’s final home game of the current Champions Cup campaign. To be fair to the visitors they were worthy winners but they certainly didn’t get it all their own way. The French Top 14 side went down to 13 men for the final 5 minutes, but a number of Connacht errors meant that they couldn’t claw their way back into the game by that point.

It was Connacht who drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty try after a sustained period of pressure in the seventh minute. The home side also had a numerical advantage as Isoefa Tekori was shown a yellow card after a series of infringements from Toulouse. The concession of the early try though brought Toulouse to life and they began to dominate possession.

On the 20 minute the visitors had their first try when Jerome Kaino raced over with the resulting conversion bringing the sides level. While Toulouse had much of the territory, Connacht stayed in this game and it looked like they would be going in all square at the break. But Toulouse piled on the pressure and in the 38th minutes they got their second try of the game when Julien Marchand got his hands on the ball off a Toulouse maul.

The first score of the second half was always going to be crucial and so it proved as Pita Ahki raced onto a charge down that had broken behind the Connacht line. Amazingly, Thomas Ramos’ conversion in the 47th minute proved to be the final score of the game.

The big talking point of the second half was how Toulouse found themselves down to 13 men. Firstly, Yoann Huget was yellow carder for a challenge on Tiernan O’Halloran in the 71st minute and then Zach Holmes saw red for a challenge on the same player two minutes later. For Connacht though the opportunity came too late and Toulouse held on to their 14 point win.

Connacht: T O’Halloran, N Adeolokun, B Aki, P Robb, M Healy, J Carty, S Kerins, P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, G Thornbury, P Boyle, C Fainga’a, J Butler (c). Replacements: D Heffernan, D Buckley for McAllister (57m), D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (52), J Maksymiw for Dillane (HIA), E McKeon, C Blade for Kerins, D Horwitz, J Porch for Adeolokun (67). Yellow card: Fainga’s 16-26m.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend has recalled a host of Irish internationals for tomorrow’s crucial Heineken Champions Cup clash with Toulouse at the Sportsground (k/o 3.15pm).
 
Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are named at out-half and outside-centre respectively after sitting out the last two weeks, while there are also returns to the starting team for fellow internationals Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy.
 
There’s further good news in the back-row where Jarrad Butler and Colby Fainga’a have both recovered from injury, with Butler captaining the side at number 8 and Fainga’a joined by Paul Boyle on the flanks.
 
Ultan Dillane will be partnered by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, while Paddy McAllister and Tom McCartney join Bealham in the front row to complete the pack.
 
Scrum-half Stephen Kerins is handed his first Champions Cup start, with Caolin Blade among the replacements having started the last nine games for Connacht.
 
Bundee Aki is partnered by Peter Robb in the centre, while Matt Healy is joined by winger Niyi Adeolokun and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran in the back three.
 
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Andy Friend says:

“It’s been a difficult Christmas period for everyone, but we’ve a lot of returning players which is exactly what we need. With our captain Jarrad Butler back in the side and players like Jack and Bundee returning from their break, I believe this is a squad full of quality and experience that can win this game.”
 
Regarding tomorrow’s opponents, Friend added:

“This game is exactly what we need. We’ve got a great opportunity to come up against the French champions and challenge them in our own backyard. We know it’s a must-win tie to keep our quarter-final hopes alive, and with our home crowd behind us I know the players will relish the occasion.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V TOULOUSE (11/1/20 @ 15:15)
15-9: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Stephen Kerins.
1-8: Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C).
Replacements: David Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, John Porch.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

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