Lock Quinn Roux and flanker Sean O’Brien have returned to the Connacht starting team for the interprovincial clash at home to Ulster in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
They are among four changes to the side which lost narrowly to Leinster in the RDS last weekend with hooker Shane Delahunt and tight head Conor Carey also named in the starting XV.
 
Carey and Delahunt come into a front row that also includes loosehead Denis Buckley while Roux partners Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
 
In the back-row O’Brien comes in at blindside with Captain Jarrad Butler reverting to the number 8 jersey.
 
Man of the Match in the Leinster game Jack Carty, continues his half back pairing with Caolin Blade. In the back three, Darragh Leader starts again at full back with Kyle Godwin, who was a late replacement for the Leinster game and Cian Kelleher retained on the wings.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald who joined Connacht on loan move this week, takes his place among the replacements.
 
Speaking ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are fully aware of the challenge that an in form Ulster side will present “These interpro fixtures are massive occasions and when they take place over the Christmas period, they bring that increased level of excitement. We know there will be a big home crowd in the Sporstground and we will need to be up for the occasion with Ulster coming to town. This block of fixtures is hugely important in the context of our season, but we are not looking beyond Ulster on Friday evening.”
 
Commenting on his team selection he added: “Quinn Roux and Sean O’Brien are fit and ready to go and they come back into the side. They have been two of our top performers this season, so they will give us increased options. In the front row we also have Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey coming in. These are two other players who have been going really well over the past few weeks. We have some real depth in these positions so it is great for us as coaches to have these options and to bring in fresh legs and know that they are ready to go. Ulster are coming off the back of a great win over Munster and I’m sure they will come to the Sportsground full of confidence.”
 
#CONvULS
 
Kick-off 7:35pm:
 
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
 
Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has named two Academy players on the bench for his side’s opening Challenge Cup game of the season against Bordeaux Bégles at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick off 3pm).

 

Out half Conor Fitzgerald and Connemara man Colm de Buitlear, who has featured across the back three, are named among the Connacht replacements.

 

In the starting XV the front row of props Peter McCabe and Conor Carey along with hooker Shane Delahunt are all set for their first starts of the season. In the second row there is one change from the side that defeated Ulster last weekend, with James Cannon starting alongside Quinn Roux. Captain Jarrad Butler at blindside, Colby Fainga’a at openside and number 8 Robin Copeland complete the pack.

 

Caolin Blade comes back in at scrum-half for the injured Kieran Marmion where he partners Jack Carty, who has been in outstanding form this season. Elsewhere in the back line the experienced Eoin Griffin joins Bundee Aki in midfield. Kyle Godwin is named on the wing with Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing, and Cian Kelleher at full-back making up the back three.

 

On the bench lock Joe Maksymiw looks set to make his Connacht debut while there is also plenty of experience to draw on with Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham also included in the match day 23.

 

Speaking ahead of the first European fixture of the season, Head Coach Andy Friend says he went for a blend of youth and experience in his selection; “We are really looking forward to our opening game of our Challenge Cup campaign. This is a competition that Connacht have a proud tradition in and we hope to make a big impact in this season. We are coming off six tough PRO14 games, so it is only natural that there is some rotation of the squad, but we are have a good blend of youth and experience among the squad. We have included Conor Fitzgerald and Colm De Buitléar, two promising Academy players, among our replacements. We hope that they will get a chance to make their debuts at some stage during the eighty minutes. It is a big opportunity to be involved in a European fixture especially in front of the home fans in the Sportsground. We also have plenty of experience on that bench to call on if needed,” Friend said.

 

“It has been a big week for the club with the announcement of our stadium plans all coming off a good win against Ulster last weekend. We know that Bordeaux will come with a big physical side and we are expecting a massive challenge. But it will be a big occasion in the Sportsground. Our fans have been huge for us this season and they will be on a high again tomorrow I’m sure”, Friend added.

 

#CONvBOR

 

Kick-off 3:00pm:

(15-9) Cian Kelleher, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Peter McCabe, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Quinn Roux, Jarrad Butler (c), Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Conán O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, Conor McKeon, Conor Fitzgerald, Colm De Buitléar.

 

 

 

Connacht’s impressive pre-season campaign continued at a warm Dubarry Park on Saturday as the side secured a seven-try victory over Wasps.

Andy Friend’s squad were looking to build on their win over Brive in France last weekend, and they did just that with a display that will no doubt please the new head coach.

With the squad continue an attacking, free-flowing running game of the last 12 months, both the scoreline and manner in which the tries were scored will surely give the team plenty of cause for optimism ahead of their opening Guinness PRO14 game against Glasgow in two weeks time.

The first of those came on the 12th minute mark when a clever move from scrum-half Caolin Blade released Matt Healy down the left-wing, and with the Wasps defence stretched Jack Carty found Tom Farrell who touched down underneath the posts.

Wasps got off the mark with a penalty moments later, but that turned out to be their only score until the last few minutes as Connacht began to dominate.

They gained a deserved 11 point lead at the break when the Farrell and Healy combo struck again – this time Farrell turning creator as broke through the middle and found Connacht’s all-time try scorer waiting on the wing.

The impressive Jack Carty almost made it try number three with the last play of the half, just stepping into touch in the corner as he attempted to gather his own grubber kick.

However that third try was to arrive shortly after the restart when Caolin Blade’s quick tap penalty brought them up to the Wasps 22, and Niyi Adeolokun acted as scrum-half to find Cian Kelleher to score his fourth try in two pre-season games.

The win was all but secured with try number four which was arguably the best of the bunch. Replacement out-half Craig Ronaldson released Adeolokun with a brilliant no-look pass, allowing the winger to use his pace down the middle to score.

Two more tries were to follow in the next 10 minutes – firstly through Rory Scholes out wide and James Mitchell down the centre after good work from the Connacht maul.

Wasps bagged a consolation in the closing minutes, but it was Connacht who had the final say when substitute Conor Carey powered over.

With two wins from two and 76 points on the board it’s been a great start to the Andy Friend era, while there were also impressive performances from new signings Kyle Godwin and Joe Maksymiw.

They’ll be hoping that run of form continues when the squad travel to Bristol for their final pre-season game on Friday night.

Connacht Rugby is delighted to confirm that prop Conor Carey has extended his contract with the province. Since arriving in the Sportsground in 2016, the 26 year old has made 25 appearances for Connacht. The Belfast man has previously been capped by Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 levels, making four appearances in the 2011 Junior World Championship.

 

Commenting on the contract extension, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “I am delighted that Conor has extended his contract with us. He has been a big powerful player for us so far this season and he is an important part of our squad. He is one of many ambitious young players in our squad and it is great to see him committing to Connacht.”

 

Speaking on his decision to extend his time with Connacht, Conor Carey said: “I returned to Ireland and signed for Connacht in 2016 and since then I feel I have settled in well to the squad. This is an excellent place to improve and develop to be a better all-round player under the guidance of an excellent coaching staff. I want to continue to make regular appearances here and to contribute to the success of Connacht in the future.”

 

Head Coach Kieran Keane has made seven changes to the Connacht side that secured a bonus-point win against the Southern Kings last week as the team travel to Rodney Parade to take on the Dragons tomorrow night (7.30pm).

Rory Scholes, Caolin Blade, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux and Jake Heenan all come into the side for their first starts of the season as Eoghan Masterson comes back in for his second start.

Scholes is set to make his competitive debut for the province on the wing in place of Matt Healy.

Blade is included in the side at scrum-half in place of Irish international Kieran Marmion, who is named among the replacements.

The other five changes are in the pack with two alterations in the front row. Coulson makes his first start for Connacht at loosehead prop after coming off the bench to make his debut in the win over the Kings with Carey starting at tighthead prop.

Ireland international Roux and Heenan also come into the side for their first starts of the season with Roux in the second row and Heenan in the back row.

Masterson, a try-scorer off the bench last week, replaces the injured Sean O’Brien.

With six points from two home games, Connacht are on the road for the first time this season in Wales and Assistant Coach Nigel Carolan is not underestimating the challenge posed by Bernard Jackman’s Dragons side.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Carolan said: “Bernard Jackman is trying to rebuild the Dragons and create a strong identity, much like he did in Grenoble. They will be a tight-knit group and very difficult to play against. They have some real firepower with Ashton Hewitt, Zane Kirchner, and the boot of Gavin Henson. It is going to be a very difficult game for us and we have to make sure we build on last week and are more effective than we were against the Kings.”

#DRAvCON

Please note this game is not televised but follow @ConnachtRugby on Twitter for live updates from Rodney Parade.

Kick-off 7.30pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Rory Scholes, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon.

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that JP Cooney, Shane Delahunt, Steve Crosbie and Tom Farrell have all signed new contracts for the 2017/18 season.

With five seasons at the Sportsground under his belt, 27-year-old prop Cooney, who can play on both sides of the scrum, has further extended his stay. The Tipperary man featured in 22 games for the province this season and made his 50th appearance against Munster at Thomond Park earlier this month.

Delahunt made 11 appearances in his debut season as a member of the senior squad and started in the highly competitive number two jersey on four occasions. The 24-year-old, who graduated from the Connacht Academy last summer, now has 27 caps to his name. A former Kilkenny College captain, Delahunt represented Ireland at under-20 level in 2014.

24-year-old outhalf Crosbie, who can also play in midfield, joined Connacht in January of this year, following a short stint with Munster. The former Ireland U20’s player has featured in three PRO12 games for Connacht this year and kicked 17 points (six from six) in April’s 22-19 win away to Edinburgh.

The province has further boosted its options at midfield with the contract extension of 23-year-old Farrell. The former Bedford Blues player also joined the province in early 2017 and has made nine appearances since his arrival. Farrell has represented Ireland at U19 and U20 level.

Commenting on the latest contract news, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said:

“Our squad is taking shape for next season and we’re delighted with the level of retention in the senior ranks. To have continuity up front in the shape of JP and Shane is a great boost and we are excited by what Steve and Tom can add to the squad having only joined us earlier in the year.

“Recruitment remains ongoing as we look to finalise the makeup of our squad for next season.”

Connacht Rugby can also confirm that senior players Conor Carey, Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Stacey Ili have had the second year on their current contracts activated and will remain at the Sportsground for the 2017/18 season.

Ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 game at home to Scarlets, the Connacht Rugby medical team have provided the following update.

Conor Carey will integrate into training with the squad this week following his foot injury sustained in December.

Quinn Roux has completed his GRTP protocols following the head injury he sustained v Leinster.

Eoin McKeon has completed his GRTP protocols following the head injury he sustained v Leinster.

Steve Crosbie sustained an AC joint injury in the game v Leinster and will be monitored this week.

Niyi Adeolokun sustained a hamstring injury in the game v Leinster and will be out of action for 4-5 weeks.

Matt Healy has recovered from his recent hand injury and will return to partial training this week.

Cian Kelleher will integrate into training with the squad this week following his hamstring injury sustained in December.

CONNACHT v SCARLETS
Saturday 29th April
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C

Get your tickets for Connacht v Scarlets here.

Referee:  Mike Adamson (SRU, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton (SRU), Helen O’Reilly (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner:  Murray Whyte (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)

 

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