Three Connacht players who featured in the Emerging Ireland tour have returned to the matchday squad for tomorrow’s BKT URC clash with Scarlets at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
Cian Prendergast is named in the starting XV while Dylan Tierney-Martin and Cathal Forde are among the replacements.
 
In total there are six changes from last week’s side, with Denis Buckley, Leva Fifita, Conor Oliver, Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran also coming into the starting lineup.
 
Buckley partners Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham in the front row while Niall Murray continues in the second row alongside Fifita. Paul Boyle completes the back row with Prendergast and Oliver.
 
Jack Carty captains the side from out-half with Marmion alongside him, while the centre partnership of David Hawkshaw and Byron Ralston is unchanged. Wingers Mack Hansen and John Porch are also retained.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“We’ve had a tough start to the season, but if we can pick up a couple of wins in these last two rounds before the November break, then we’ll put ourselves in a much better position heading into the next block.
 
Scarlets are always a difficult team to face as they have quality players across the park. There’s nearly always one score separating the two sides at full-time, so it’ll no doubt be a tight affair. We need to ensure we bring the intent and physicality that we’ve shown in the last two matches, as well as improving our ability to finish the multiple opportunities that we’re creating. If we can do that, then we’ll put ourselves in a great position to obtain the result that we’re all chasing.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY SQUAD VS SCARLETS
Friday 21st October 2022, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (207)
14. John Porch (64)
13. Byron Ralston (5)
12. David Hawkshaw (5)
11. Mack Hansen (18)
10. Jack Carty (182) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (213)
1. Denis Buckley (213)
2. Dave Heffernan (170)
3. Finlay Bealham (178)
4. Niall Murray (39)
5. Leva Fifita (17)
6. Cian Prendergast (32)
7. Conor Oliver (45)
8. Paul Boyle (77)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (8)
17. Jordan Duggan (28)
18. Jack Aungier (36)
19. Oisín Dowling (29)
20. Jarrad Butler (98)
21. Colm Reilly (12)
22. Cathal Forde (2)
23. Alex Wootton (35)

Tiernan O’Halloran will become the fourth Connacht player to reach 200 caps when he lines out against Glasgow Warriors at The Sportsground on Saturday (k/o 2.55pm).
 
The Clifden native made his Connacht debut in October 2009 at the age of just 18 and has been a mainstay in the squad ever since. He joins John Muldoon, Michael Swift and Denis Buckley as the only players to reach the historic milestone.
 
Buckley meanwhile will make a welcome return from a serious knee injury, with the prop among the replacements for what is due to be his first appearance of the season.
 
Jordan Duggan and Greg McGrath retain their places as starting props, with hooker Dave Heffernan alongside them in the front row. There’s a new look second row of Ultan Dillane and Leva Fifita, while Eoghan Masterson and Paul Boyle also come into the side in the back row. Jarrad Butler captains the team from openside flanker.
 
In the backs there’s a senior debut for Academy graduate Cathal Forde. The Galway native, who has signed a Pro contract from the beginning next season, starts at out-half with scrum-half Kieran Marmion alongside him.
 
The centre partnership is unchanged with Sammy Arnold alongside Tom Farrell, and there’s a start on the wing for another Academy graduate Diarmuid Kilgallen. Alex Wootton completes the side from the opposite wing.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Tiernan’s 200th cap is a huge achievement for him. To play 200 times for one club is a testament to his loyalty to Connacht, his dedication to the game, and his ability as a footballer. The fact that he’s reached the milestone for his home province, having come through the ranks at Connemara RFC and Garbally College, only adds to the achievement.
 
Tomorrow’s game is a really important one in the context of the URC standings. We don’t have many home games left so it’s crucial we pick up as many points as possible in these fixtures. The results of the last two weeks were disappointing so it’s up to all of us to ensure we do enough for 80 minutes to get the win.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS GLASGOW WARRIORS
Saturday 29th January, 14:55 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (199)
14. Alex Wootton (27)
13. Tom Farrell (69)
12. Sammy Arnold (28)
11. Diarmuid Kilgallen (6)
10. Cathal Forde *
9. Kieran Marmion (197)
1. Jordan Duggan (21)
2. Dave Heffernan (155)
3. Greg McGrath (2)
4. Ultan Dillane (124)
5. Leva Fifita (5)
6. Eoghan Masterson (116)
7. Jarrad Butler (85) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (65)
 
Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (112)
17. Denis Buckley (200)
18. Tietie Tuimauga (3)
19. Oisín Dowling (16)
20. Seán Masterson (15)
21. Colm Reilly (7)
22. Shayne Bolton (2)
23. Oran McNulty (5)

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that six Academy players have signed Pro contracts beginning in the 2022/23 season.
 
The six players are Cathal Forde, Shane Jennings, Oisin McCormack, Darragh Murray, Ciaran Booth and Diarmuid Kilgallen, and represents another substantial seal of approval for the Connacht pathway system.
 
Galway-born Cathal Forde can cover the 10 or 12 positions and played a significant role in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations campaign last year, earning plaudits for his performances. The 20-year old has represented Galway Corinthians RFC at club level and played school rugby with Colaiste Iognaid (The Jes).
 
Like Forde, Shane Jennings also made a big impact on the Ireland U20 scene last year. Another product of the Connacht pathway system, Jennings has played for Ballinasloe RFC and Garbally College and predominately plays centre. More recently he was a member of the Ireland Sevens squad at the World Sevens Series in Canada.
 
Oisin McCormack is another alumni of Garbally College and Ballinasloe RFC, playing with friend Shane Jennings from an early age. McCormack holds a unique accolade of scoring tries in consecutive Connacht Schools Cup finals, touching down in both the 2018 and 2019 Senior deciders. The 20-year old can play across the back row and has played for Ireland and U18 Schools, U18 Clubs and U20 level.
 
Darragh Murray is the second Murray brother to graduate from the Academy, following in the footsteps of his older brother Niall. A fellow lock, Darragh was a member of the 2021 Ireland U20s and captain of the Connacht U18s that won the 2018 Interprovincial Series. He came through the pathway at Buccaneers RFC and Colaiste Chiarain Athlone.
 
Ciaran Booth first joined the Connacht Academy in the summer of 2020, arriving from Sale Sharks. The 21-year old was born in Stockport and is Irish qualified, having played for Ireland in the 2019 U20 Rugby World Championship. Primarily a flanker, Booth can also play as a number 8 or in the second row.
 
Diarmuid Kilgallen is no stranger to Connacht supporters having already made 5 appearances with the Pro team. The back three player made his debut at the Aviva Stadium against Munster in August 2020, and Lansdowne Road was also the scene for his first try, scoring an intercept against Ulster last October.
 
Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood has paid tribute to the six players:
 
“I’d like to congratulate the six men on their impending move to the Pro team, and to their respective clubs and schools that have played a big part in their success. Everyone at Connacht Rugby has worked tremendously hard at all levels to give them the platform to succeed and I’d like to acknowledge the work done by the coaches as well as the wider Academy staff. That said, it’s up to the players themselves to take the opportunities afforded to them and they’ve done just that. I know they each have what is required to take that next step in their careers.”
 
Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has congratulated the six players on their contracts:
 
“This is a special day both for Connacht Rugby and for Cathal, Shane, Oisin, Darragh, Ciaran and Diarmuid. They have each forged their own paths to professional rugby through hard-work and dedication, and with the help of their coaches, parents and volunteers along the way. It’s particularly pleasing that 4 of the 6 players came through the Connacht pathway, playing their club and school rugby here in the West of Ireland. I’m looking forward to further integrating them into the Pro setup and help us challenge for honours in the years ahead”
 

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

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

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