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.
 
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Connacht have been boosted by the return of a host of players ahead of the Champions Cup clash with Toulouse on Saturday (Kick off 3:15pm). Bundee Aki and Jack Carty are available for selection following a two week rest period, as is Ultan Dillane who was rested last week.

Finlay Bealham has returned to full training and is available for selection after completing his return to play protocols. He was involved in a collision in the game against Ulster.

In addition, Rory Burke (neck), Jarrad Butler (illness), Colby Fainga’a (knee), Matt Healy (thigh) and Peter Robb (head) are all reintegrating into training this week following their respective injuries.

The news is also very positive on Conor Fitzgerald following a scan on his ankle. He will return to full training next week. Peter McCabe (ankle) and Tom Farrell (shoulder) are progressing well with their injuries and they will also look to return to training next week.

Conor Kenny (head) sustained a head injury in the Leinster game and will follow graduated return to play protocols. Stephen Fitzgerald sustained a knee injury in the same game and is awaiting scan results to determine the extent of his injuries.

Meanwhile, Matthew Burke (thigh), Cillian Gallagher (shoulder), Darragh Leader (calf), Sean O’Brien (shoulder) and Quinn Roux (hand) remain on the medium to long term injured list.

Tickets for the clash with the French Top 14 Champions are available to purchase here.

The Ireland coaching group will host a 24hr mid-season stocktake at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre in Dublin across the 22nd and 23rd December ahead of a busy period of interprovincial and European fixtures.

The group includes five Connacht players; Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan and Caolin Blade.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented, “The national coaches have been around the provinces watching games and having good conversations with players and the provincial coaches. 

We have limited opportunities across the busy provincial season to bring a broad group like this together but this 24hr window will allow us to plant a few seeds.   It will also give the coaches a better insight into a few players who been performing consistently well for their provinces.    

The next six weeks is the window for players to put their hands up for selection for our first squad which will be named in late January ahead of the 6 Nations.”

1 Day Mid-Season Stocktake Attendees

Connacht:

Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux

Leinster:

Ross Byrne, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson Park, Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Ronan Kelleher, Jordan Larmour, Luke McGrath, Andrew Porter, Garry Ringrose, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, Jonathan Sexton, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier

Munster:

Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Mike Haley, Dave Kilcoyne, Jean Kleyn, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell, CJ Stander

Ulster:

Will Addison, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey, Marty Moore, Tom O’Toole, Jacob Stockdale

 

Connacht 27

Gloucester 24 

A last minute try from Robin Copeland deep into injury time sent the Sportsground crowd wild and secured a win that looked unlikely when they trailed 13 points to Gloucester’s 24 with 4 minutes remaining. Connacht had dominated possession and territory throughout but some vital errors inside the opposition 22 looked like they would cost them the game.

When Shane Delahunt got over for Connacht’s second try with just three minutes on the clock the home side turned the momentum of the last 20 minutes. Copeland’s try came at the end of an extraordinary 20 phase sequence of play that saw Tom Daly offload to the replacement number 8 who ran in under the posts.

It was Connacht who had drawn first blood when outhalf Conor Fitzgerald kicked a penalty in the 14th minute. It was an important score for the 22 year old as Connacht had been reduced to 14 men when Eoin McKeon picked up a yellow card four minutes earlier. After a sustained period of pressure and a try already disallowed, Caolin Blade crawled over on the half hour mark. When Fitzgerald landed the conversion Connacht looked in control as they stood 10 points to the good.

That dominance was to be short lived though as Gerbrandt Grobler got in for a Gloucester try 2 minutes after Blade’s effort. While Connacht had another chance on the stroke of half time, the advantage remained 10-7 to the home side at the break.

Gloucester came out with a renewed enthusiasm in the second half and within five minutes were in front with a Mark Atkinson try which they failed to convert.

When Billy Twelvetrees got Gloucester’s third in the 66th minute, the away side were driving for a bonus point win. They didn’t have to wait long for the try and Atkinson was in again in the 69th minute. At this stage, with Gloucester winning 24 to 13, even the most optimistic Connacht supporters would have thought a win was almost impossible and even a losing bonus point was unlikely.

But the home side showed incredible belief and and when replacement hooker Delahunt got in, the momentum and the crowd were right behind Connacht.

Copeland’s try in injury time will be added to the many magical Sportsground moments that Connacht have witnessed in the Champions Cup. Their never say attitude tees them up nicely for the series of interpro fixtures over the Christmas period.

Munster at home are first in that trilogy – they come to the Sportsground on Saturday December 21st. Its expected to be another cracker!

Tickets available here.

Connacht Scorers:

Tries – C Blade, S Delahunt, R Copeland

Conversions – C Fitzgerald (3)

Penalties – C Fitzgerald (2)

Connacht: Jack Carty,  Niyi Adeolokun (Tom Daly),  Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade ( Stephen Kerins), Peter McCabe (Denis Buckley), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt), Dominic Robertson McCoy (Finlay Bealham), Ultan Dillane,  Joe Maksymiw (Niall Murray), Eoin McKeon (Eoghan Masterson), Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle (Robin Copeland)

The IRFU and Connacht Rugby have confirmed that Bundee Aki has signed a three year contract extension that will keep him at the Sportsground up to the end of the 2022/23 season. Having joined Connacht in 2014, Aki has gone on to play 92 times for the province, scoring 18 tries. He was a central figure in Connacht’s 2016 Pro12 success and was selected as the Pro12 Player of the season in the championship winning year.

In 2017 he made his international debut for Ireland and has gone on to win 23 caps and score four tries. In 2018 he played all five games in Ireland’s Grand Slam Six Nations success and also started in the win at home to the All Blacks. This year, he was selected to play in the Rugby World Cup in Japan and played against Scotland, Russia and Samoa in the Pool stages of the competition.

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “Bundee has been an incredible player for Connacht since his arrival in the Sportsground. He has completely embraced every aspect of life in the West of Ireland and has driven standards among the playing group. He shares the ambition that we have for the seasons ahead and what he can achieve as a Connacht player. His commitment for a further three seasons is a sign of the energy and passion he has for the province”.

Following his contract signing, Bundee Aki commented: “I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to represent both Connacht and Ireland and am delighted to extend my IRFU contract. The whole of Connacht have been incredibly supportive of both me and my family and the Ireland supporters have been fantastic from the very first day I was selected for the national squad. Connacht has become home to me and my family and I want to play my part in helping Connacht achieve their ambitious plans in the years to come.”

Willie Ruane, Connacht Rugby CEO, commented, “Connacht Rugby is delighted that Bundee has extended his contract to 2023.  This is the third time that Bundee has committed to Connacht Rugby which reflects not only his belief in what we are doing but also our commitment in supporting him to achieve for both Connacht and Ireland.”

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I never doubted where I wanted to be. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have been given to represent both Connacht and Ireland and am delighted to extend my IRFU contract. From the start of my Debut in the Irish jersey me and my family have had great support and are very grateful to everyone❤ My club Connacht have been incredibly supportive in my journey so far and I’m excited about our next challenge @irishrugby @connachtrugby #shoulderToShoulder #grassrootstogreenshirts

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Connacht have been boosted by the return of a number of players for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 meeting with the Southern Kings at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).
 
Bundee Aki is named at inside centre having missed last week’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse, and he plays alongside Kyle Godwin. There’s also a return from injury for Niyi Adeolokun who joins a back three with John Porch on the opposite wing and Matt Healy at full-back.
 
The backs are completed by Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald who continue their half-back partnership.
 
In the pack there’s an all-new front row from the side that started in Toulouse last week. Denis Buckley has recovered from an illness to start at loosehead with Finlay Bealham at tighthead and the in-form Tom McCartney as hooker.
 
Quinn Roux continues to captain the side from the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, while a back row of Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a and Paul Boyle completes the side.
 
Meanwhile club captain Jarrad Butler is likely to see some game time after missing the opening two games in Europe due to injury. The back row is named among the replacements.
 
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“We were very disappointed not to come away with anything from France last week, so this is a good opportunity for the squad to bounce back. Bundee Aki, Niyi Adeolokun and Jarrad Butler are all back in the squad so we’re improving on the injury front.”
 
Speaking on the challenge posed by the Kings, Friend added:
“It’s important to keep our discipline in games like this. The Kings have had two weeks without a game, so all their focus has been on us, and they’ll be looking to build on their win away to the Ospreys as well. We’re heading into a few crucial games against Gloucester so it’s important we keep building our performances.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS
(15-9): Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade. (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (C), Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Jarrad Butler, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.
 
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