Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm).
Eoghan Masterson comes in for his 93rd Connacht appearance, starting at blindside flanker. Captain Jarrad Butler moves to number 8 as a result while Conor Oliver retains his place on the opposite flank.
The other changes comes in the backs where Sammy Arnold partners Bundee Aki at centre.
The remainder of the team is the same that impressively saw off Glasgow Warriors last week, with hooker Dave Heffernan joined by props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in the front row, while Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux continue their second row partnership.
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are retained at 9 and 10 respectively, while the squad is completed by the same back three of wingers Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan alongside full-back John Porch.
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
“We were very pleased to pick up the win last week and the way the squad took control of the game in the second half. That said, we are targeting two wins from these first two games so the job is only half done.
Rodney Parade is a tough place to go but I have full confidence in the squad we have selected to go over and get the win. Unfortunately we will be without Niall Murray for a lengthy period, but we are able to welcome back Ultan Dillane while Shane Delahunt has served his suspension so we are in a good place overall.”

Saturday 10th October, Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm)

15. John Porch (19)
14. Peter Sullivan (2)
13. Sammy Arnold (2)
12. Bundee Aki (102)
11. Alex Wootton (2)
10. Jack Carty (141)
9. Kieran Marmion (168)
1. Denis Buckley (180)
2. Dave Heffernan (131)
3. Finlay Bealham (143)
4. Gavin Thornbury (40)
5. Quinn Roux (102)
6. Eoghan Masterson (92)
7. Conor Oliver (3)
8. Jarrad Butler (57) (C)

16. Shane Delahunt (78)
17. Jordan Duggan (2)
18. Jack Aungier (2)
19. Ultan Dillane (97)
20. Paul Boyle (41)
21. Stephen Kerins (9)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (24)
23. Tom Daly (26)

By John O’Sullivan
Attack coach Nigel Carolan believes that the breakdown will be a key area of battle in Connacht’s PRO14 trip to the Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
The Westerners started their domestic campaign with a 28-24 victory over The Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground last weekend, a win built on a combination of sturdy defence and efficient attacking.
The Blues, meanwhile, opened their season with a 16-6 win away to Zebre in Italy and Carolan anticipates a big challenge from the Welshmen, especially at the breakdown, and wants to see Connacht improve their discipline.
“Looking back at the last game, what we learned from that game was the discipline, the ill discipline and how that can pressure our game; how it puts so much pressure onto our defence and how it inhibits our attack. It doesn’t give us the opportunities that we would like,” the former Irish U20’s coach said.
“They’re a big threat over the breakdown. You have got Ollie Robinson and (Josh) Navidi and, traditionally, Cardiff go hard after the ball so there will be a big focus on the breakdown. And, in some cases, we’ll need to play a little bit more without the ball, so we’re not giving them the life they want by stealing our ball at the breakdown.”
In the victory over Glasgow, Connacht scored two tries from quick thinking, transitional plays– attacking as soon as possession was won — and Carolan was pleased to see facets of the game forged on the training paddock pay dividends in a game.
“It’s a massive part of our game(transitional plays) and where we see our attack is in the transition game, in what some may term the unstructured part of the game. But for us it’s not really unstructured because we try and create a little bit of structure around that.
We focus a lot on playing off turnovers and trying to capitalise on turnovers. Over the last couple of months, we’ve been playing a lot of little games, working from kick transitions and turnover transitions, and trying to go forward on the ball and finding other players’ space is the terms we’re looking to do when we’re in transition.
It’s pleasing that that’s starting to pay reward,” the former Connacht centre said.
New signing Alex Wootton, meanwhile, says that he is enjoying playing under Andy Friend and is thriving in the attacking style of rugby played at the Sportsground.
The former Sevens player — who joined on a season long loan from Munster — feels he has settled in quicker to life with the Westerners because of the emphasis Connacht — with former Australian Seven coach Friend a key factor — place on a quick style of play.
With assists for Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki tries — both with accurate grubber kicks in behind — against Ulster and Glasgow respectively, Wootton has already made a telling contribution.
“Absolutely, yeah”, the 26-year-old said when asked whether Connacht’s style suits his skillset as a former Sevens player.
“Sevens was a big stepping stone for myself, as well for a few other people as well who have gone on to play professional 15’s. It’s definitely something which was highlighted a good few times, speaking to Andy. That was definitely a tick in the box. We hit it off from that side of things,” Wootton said.
On and off the ball, the Sportsground teams back three impressed versus Glasgow. With Irish international’s Matt Healy and Tiernan O’Halloran to return — as well as Peter Sullivan and John Porch in contention — the competition for places for a starting berth at full back or on the wings is huge.
With so many quality players vying for position, Connacht are in admirable position and can only benefit and Wootton says that the challenge is exciting and that it is improving each player as an individual
“You look at the squad and you’ve got Tiernan — who is a capped international — and you got Matt Healy, who is a capped international, and these are guys who are yet to come back in.
By no means, and kudos to the coaches that are building the squad well, is there anything(a preferred back three) set in stone. That might have happened before and you look at other provinces and you can say ‘that’s definitely their starting back three’ but that’s definitely not the case here.
That’s bringing the best out of all of us. That goes right down through the squad and into the academy as well,” the former Irish U20 winger said.

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has given 21 year old Sligo man Cillian Gallagher his first start of the season as Connacht take on Conference rivals Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm).
Gallagher is one of ten changes to the Connacht side that played Bordeaux last weekend, with six players away on international duty and Gavin Thornbury picking up a shoulder injury in training during the week.
In the front row, Denis Buckley is named at loosehead alongside Finlay Bealham at tighthead and hooker Dave Heffernan, who signed a contract extension this week. Gallagher’s inclusion in the second row sees him form a partnership with James Cannon, while in the back row captain Jarrad Butler comes back into the side at number 8 alongside flankers Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a.
The half-back pairing sees James Mitchell coming in to partner David Horwitz who is retained at out-half.
The back three sees Tiernan O’Halloran starting again at full-back with Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher on the wings. In the midfield, on loan centre Tom Daly starts his second game of the season alongside Kyle Godwin.
With Connacht sitting five points ahead of Cardiff in Conference A of the PRO14, Head Coach Andy Friend says that this is a hugely important fixture in Connacht’s season; “We have won eight of our last ten games so we go into the game with confidence but we know what a tough team Cardiff are to play, especially when they are at home. These inter-conference games have a huge bearing on the overall standings in the PRO14 so we are fully aware of the importance of the fixture”, the Head Coach said.
We have made a few changes to our match day squad with players away on international duty and a few injuries to contend with, but we have picked a team that we have full confidence in to go to Cardiff and get a result”, Friend added.
Kick-off 5:15pm:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, David Horwitz, James Mitchell, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Conor Fitzgerald, Stephen Fitzgerald.



Match Preview from

Conference A rivals Cardiff Blues and Connacht clash as the Guinness PRO14 gets back underway this week.

Nearly three weeks since they were last in action in the championship, the Blues and Connacht help kick off Round Nine as they both attempt to put pressure on the teams currently occupying the play-off positions.


What’s at stake?

These two teams are currently separated by just a single point in the Conference A table, with Friday’s hosts Cardiff fifth and Connacht fourth.

A much-changed Blues suffered back-to-back defeats in the opening two rounds of the Anglo-Welsh Cup but were 37-8 victors over Zebre in their last Guinness PRO14 outing.

Connacht will head out in search of their first away win of the season in the championship, with both sides looking to overhaul the third-placed Cheetahs.


Team news (Cardiff Blues):

After two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, the Blues have made ten changes to the side that started their loss to Ospreys last time out.

Jarrod Evans and Tomos Williams will start at half-back, with the former taking the place of Steve Shingler, who has been ruled out for a month with an ankle injury.

Cardiff are also missing captain Gethin Jenkins and full-back Rhun Williams.


Team news (Connacht):

Connacht will be without Ireland internationals Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane, while Jarrad Butler and Craig Ronaldson remain sidelined with injury.

Fresh from bagging a try in his first start of the season against the Cheetahs last time out, winger Niyi Adeolokun earns another start.

Eoin Griffin and Tom Farrell also start but new signing Pita Ahki is named as a replacement.


Talking points:

Cardiff head coach Danny Wilson is wary of a sting in the tail against Connacht, having seen his troops best the Irish province 17-15 in Galway in Round Four.

“We kickstarted our season off the back of the win against Connacht in September and they’ll be wanting to get revenge,” he said.

“That was a good win and a bit of a milestone for my time here, having not beating them away before then, it has to be matched with a home win.

“We’ve put pressure on ourselves to go after the home win and Championship-wise it will move us up to fourth, and into the qualification area that we want to be in.


Key Battle: Jarrod Evans v Jack Carty

Back in the fold after recovering from a broken nose, Evans has been given the nod at fly-half ahead of Gareth Anscombe in the battle to deputise for Shingler.

The 21-year-old will attempt to dictate the rhythm of Friday’s encounter at Cardiff Arms Park but will be going up against Connacht’s Jack Carty, who has kicked a steady three penalties and three conversions in his last three games.


Key Stat: Since losing to Ulster in Round Six, Connacht have won their last four matches in all competitions.

Did you know? The Blues have not beaten Connacht both home and away since the 2013-14 season.



Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees, Taufa’ao Filise; George Earle, Damian Welch; Macauley Cook, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Anton Peikrishvili, James Down, Josh Turnbull, Lewis Jones, Gareth Anscombe, Harri Millard

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Quinn Roux, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Steve Crosbie, Pita Ahki


TV: Live on BBC2 Wales at 7.30pm

Follow our live commentary from Cardiff Arms Park on Twitter at #CARvCON
Follow in game stats through our match centre.



Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has named his starting XV to face conference rivals Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday (K.O. 7:35pm Live on BBC 2 Wales). Connacht go into the fixture without Irish internationals Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane while Jarrad Butler and Craig Ronaldson remain on the injury list.


Niyi Adeoloukun who scored a decisive try in his first start of the season against the Cheetahs starts again on the wing. Matt Healy on the opposite wing and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran make up the rest of the back three. Eoin Griffin and Tom Farrell make up the centre pairing and while there is no starting position for new signing Pita Ahki, he is named among the replacements.


Jack Carty and Caolin Blade form the half back pairing with Marmion unavailable due to his involvement with the Irish squad. In the pack Dave Heffernan starts at hooker with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in at loose head and tighthead respectively. The experienced back row includes flankers Eoin McKeon and Jake Heenan with Captain John Muldoon in at number 8.


With four wins a row in all competitions, Out-half Jack Carty says Connacht need to maintain consistency in the next few games: “Over the last few games we have managed to get the results we have needed. Our focus now is on consistency away to Cardiff and next week against Zebre, that’s what we need to deliver. We need to put in the performances now to put ourselves in a strong position later in the season. We were beaten by Cardiff earlier in the season, but we will not be focusing on that. We will be concentrating on ourselves and our own game.”


Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade,

(1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Steve Crosbie, Pita Ahki.


Our medical team have issued the following update ahead of the clash away to Cardiff Blues on Friday night  (K.O. at 7:35pm).

JP Cooney has returned to training following his ankle injury in October.

Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.


Gavin Thornbury has reintegrated into full training following his calf injury versus the Cheetahs.

Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.


Back Row:
Eoin McKeon will integrate fully into training this week following a recent hamstring injury.

Jake Heenan will integrate fully into training this week following a recent knee injury.

James Connolly is progressing well in his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in October and will return to training in the coming weeks.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return to training in early December.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.


Eoin Griffin has returned to full training with the squad this week following his calf injury.

Craig Ronaldson is continuing his recovery from a calf injury and will return to training in December.

Peter Robb is rehabilitating from recent hip surgery and will be out of action until December.


Back Three:
Stacey Ili is progressing well in his recovery from a recent shoulder injury and will return to training in early December.

Rory Scholes had his appendix removed last week and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery.











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