Ireland international scrum half Kieran Marmion is set to make his first start of the Guinness PRO14 campaign as Connacht take on Edinburgh in Murrayfield on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).

The game also marks the return of Bundee Aki who is named on the bench for Connacht’s first away trip of the season. 

Marmion’s return is one of four changes to the Connacht starting side that secured a bonus point win over Zebre last weekend, with young Sligo prop Conan O’Donnell, lock Ultan Dillane and winger Niyi Adeolokun also included. 

21 year old Academy player Paul Boyle is again named at number 8 after his two tries and Man of the Match performance against Zebre. He is part of an unchanged back row with Captain Jarrad Butler at openside and Sean O’Brien at blindside. 

Adeolokun’s inclusion on the wing sees him join a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back. The centre pairing of Eoin Griffin and Kyle Godwin is also retained with Aki set to feature off the bench.

Announcing his team, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend spoke about the depth in his squad which is leading to some genuine competition for places: “It is pleasing that we have some real depth and quality coming through, it’s how we balance it while rewarding good performances at the same time. We also really need that physicality against this Edinburgh side”, Friend said.

“This week we are welcoming back two more internationals. Kieran Marmion will start, having come off the bench last week. He is a real quality player and it is great to have him in our starting team after getting an extra break following Ireland’s tour to Australia. The other big addition is to have Bundee back. He starts off the bench and is raring to go. We face a big challenge in Murrayfield and no doubt Edinburgh will be hurting after the loss last weekend – it’s another massive challenge for us”, he added.

#EDIvCON

Kick-off 7:35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Conan O’Donnell, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Bundee Aki. 

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy players Cillian Gallagher, Conan O’Donnell and Peter Claffey have all signed senior professional contracts with the province for the 2018/19 season.

Gallagher and O’Donnell’s development closely reflects the impressive growth of the game in the wider Sligo region, driven by the great work of Sligo RFC, Summerhill College and Sligo Grammar School.

O’Donnell’s rise through the ranks at club and school level was rewarded with an academy contract with Connacht Rugby, with the prop making his debut for the Connacht senior side in the PRO12 winning season in 2016. He has since gone on to make a total of nine senior appearances in his three years in the academy system.

Lock Cillian Gallagher is another product of Sligo RFC and has signed his first professional contract after a two year term in the academy. He made his debut for the senior team at home to Worcester Warriors in the European Challenge Cup in October and has gone on to make five appearances in total this season.

Portumna native Peter Claffey is a lock who also has a bright future having graduated through the underage system in both Ballinasloe RFC and his school, Garbally College. Both club and school have been long time developers of young talent and Claffey’s development is a continuation of their great work at grassroots level within then province.

Commenting on the contract signings, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said: “The development of players from our club and school system and through our academy is essential for the future success of Connacht. We are delighted that three more players are making the step up to full time professional contracts next season.  Our vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts sets out a clear strategy of developing home grown players through the structures in place in the province. All three have come through that path and they will be an important part of the senior squad next season.”

Welcoming the signings, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “It is great to see three players from the province making the step up to the senior squad.  All three have been integrating into the senior squad training this season and we have been impressed with the progress they have made. Their development to full time professional contracts is a credit to the work being done at club and schools level throughout the province.”

 

Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has announced his starting XV to take on Munster in Thomond Park on Saturday (Kick Of 7:45pm – Live on TG4). Irish Internationals Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki are all rested this weekend in an effort to manage their game time.

 

Prop Peter McCabe is given a start against his former club and he is joined in the front row by Hooker Tom McCartney and tight head Conor Carey. Quinn Roux comes into the second row and there is a third start of the season in the back row for 20 year old Sligo native and Academy player Cillian Gallagher.

 

Eoin Griffin and Pita Ahki form the new centre partnership and the back three is made up or Tiernan O’Halloran at fullback with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings. Caolin Blade comes in at scrum half and will play alongside Jack Carty. Among the replacements, prop Conan O’Donnell and back row Paul Boyle make the step up from the Connacht Academy.

 

Speaking ahead of the clash with Munster, Connacht Head Coach Kieran said: “We have come through a series of big games and some guys have seen a lot of game time. Our internationals in particular are due a break especially with the Six Nations just around the corner. The squad is in a really good place at the moment. Obviously, we felt we could and should have won against Leinster and we came very close. We did the review during the week, we identified where we came up short and now we move on. The performance and effort levels from the boys over the past few weeks has been top quality and particularly in the interpro series we have seen some real character.”

We have some changes in personnel for the Munster game so there are opportunities for other guys to show what they are capable of. Munster will be hurting after their two games over the Christmas period and at home they will be a massive challenge. They have quality all over the park and I’m sure they will be really determined to get back to winning ways before they get back to European competition”.

 

#MUNvCON

Kick-off 7:45pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade,
(1-8) Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

 

 

 

 

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