Connacht get the first of their Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship fixtures underway this weekend as they travel to Dublin to take on Leinster at Energia Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game.

When’s the game?

Kick-off is 2.30pm on Saturday 7th January.

What’s the state of play so far?

It’s the first round and one Connacht will be feeling confident about. Connacht have a lot of bright up and coming players in the squad which brings great excitement around the province.

Who’s in the Connacht squad?

A 36-player extended training squad will be announced on Wednesday morning.

How’s our recent record against them?

Our last meeting with Leinster was August 2021 at The Sportsground which Leinster won 17-12.

  • Con 12-17 Lei
  • Lei 25-12 Con
  • Con 6-34 Lei

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad on Friday when it will be named on and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets available through Leinster Rugby.

What channel is it on?

TV viewing on TG4.

Katie Fitzhenry’s class of 2022 equalled Ireland’s best ever finish at a Rugby Europe Under-18 Women’s Sevens Championship by winning bronze in Prague.

The Ireland U-18 Women’s Sevens team (sponsored by PwC) began day two with their fourth win of the tournament, beating hosts Czechia 26-5 to guarantee themselves a medal.

An Amy Larn hat-trick was the highlight of that game, but Spain (26-5) and eventual champions France (46-0) ultimately proved too strong as the high temperatures and rigours of their first international Sevens tournament took their toll.

Still, Ireland have a number of bright prospects emerging from a squad that matched the feats of the 2018 bronze medal-winning Irish side, which included future senior internationals Beibhinn Parsons, Megan Burns, Dorothy Wall, Meabh Deely, Anna Doyle and Lucinda Kinghan.

Athy’s Larn and Hannah Clarke from Tuam/Oughterard finished as Ireland’s joint-top try scorers with five each. Tullow’s Katie Corrigan had three tries, including a brace against Belgium yesterday.

Czechia edged ahead of Ireland in the second minute of their Pool F encounter, working Julie Durychova over from close range after Molly Boote was harshly sin-binned for what was adjudged to be a high tackle.

The girls in green regrouped quickly, though, and some nice interplay between Tara O’Neill and Larn saw the latter take a return pass to score under the posts. Caitriona Finn converted.

The impressive Larn then took a lovely line to add a second score, hurtling onto a pass from Corrigan. Strong tackles from Larn and winger Clarke prevented the Czechs from responding before half-time.

12-5 became 19-5 inside 90 seconds of the restart as Larn broke from a scrum on halfway and a subsequent penalty allowed Boote to put O’Neill charging in under the posts. The extras came from Éabha Nic Dhonnacha.

There was no denying Larn her hat-trick try in the 12th minute, as she weaved over from inside the Czech 22, rewarding Nic Dhonnacha’s initial turnover and a strong carry up the left wing from Robyn O’Connor.

The home side came with a late surge, with Ireland down to six players again following a second yellow for Boote. However, Nic Dhonnacha and Ellen Boylan led a determined defence that forced a final knock-on.

It was a stalemate in Ireland’s Pool G opener until Spain broke the deadlock in the sixth minute. Ariane Torrontegi converted a two-on-one opportunity, with Carolina Rodriguez adding the extras.

Fitzhenry’s charges were unable to profit from a Larn break off a scrum, and just before the interval, Boylan surged downfield to threaten a try but her offload was knocked on by the supporting Larn.

Two converted tries at the start of the second half knocked the stuffing out of Ireland’s challenge, with Spain making breaks out wide and using good support to push into a 21-0 lead.

Rodriguez and Isis Espuga both touched down, before O’Neill lifted her team with a terrific carry from the restart. It gave Ireland a foothold in Spanish territory and eventually led to a try.

Showing her sharpness again off a scrum, Larn attacked the blindside and had the pace to get over in the right corner with just over two minutes remaining.

A stolen lineout allowed Spain to have the final say, some crisp handling on the left setting up Victoria Rosell to jink through and make it a four tries-to-one triumph (26-5).

France had been in dominant form across the first five rounds, a class apart really, and Ireland also found it tough going against them. An early turnover paved the way for Lilou Graciet to touch down to the right of the posts.

Strong running by Boylan and O’Connor gave Ireland hard-earned territory, but a breakaway score from Hawa Tounkara – while Ireland had two players needing treatment – saw France take a 12-0 lead.

Les Bleues used their advantages in terms of pace and power, another turnover seeing them attack both wings and Tounkara bagged her brace to the left of the posts.

Ireland’s frustration grew, O’Connor making a superb break from deep but she lacked support. From the resulting penalty, the French broke downfield and clinically claimed their fourth try through Enoe Neri, leaving it 24-0.

Good angles of running and passing released Lina Tuy to score the opening try of the second half. The scrum half soon completed her brace, being the beneficiary of an offload popped off the ground.

Worse followed for Ireland as Pauline Barrat crossed out wide on the right, with Corrigan yellow carded for her high tackle on the try scorer.

The French defence was tested late on, but Larn knocked on in an attacking situation and from the resulting scrum, Tuy broke free from a scrum to complete a classy hat-trick past the final hooter.

While disappointed to finish on a losing note, the Ireland U-18s can hold their heads high as they added to the IRFU Sevens Programme’s excellent medal haul and list of achievements for 2022.

IRELAND UNDER-18 WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2022 Rugby Europe U-18 Women’s Sevens Championship, Prague, Czech Republic, July 23-24, 2022):

Molly Boote (Connemara RFC/Connacht) WNTS
Ellen Boylan (Carrick-on-Suir RFC/Munster)
Hannah Clarke (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Connacht) WNTS
Katie Corrigan (Tullow RFC/Leinster)
Caitriona Finn (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) WNTS
Kate Flannery (Fethard RFC/Munster) WNTS
Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht) WNTS
Amy Larn (Athy RFC/Leinster)
Robyn O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Leinster)
Amy O’Mahony (Greystones RFC/Leinster)
Tara O’Neill (Cooke RFC/Ulster)
Eva Sterritt (Greystones RFC/Leinster) (capt) WNTS

WNTS = member of Women’s National Talent Squad

Connacht were defeated 45-8 by Leinster in a physical interprovincial at the Sportsground tonight in the United Rugby Championship. 


A Jack Carty penalty and a Tiernan O’Halloran try accounted for the home teams scores, but – after Tom Daly’s red card after just two minutes – playing with a man down for the majority of the game, Leinster ran out winners. 


The home team will face Bennetton away in the United Rugby Championship next weekend. 


The contest began with a typical Interprovincial intensity and Leinster were reduced to 14 men temporarily when Tommy O’Brien was reprimanded for a tackle in the air on Niall Murray right from the game’s kick-off. 


However, Connacht soon joined the away team in losing a man when Tom Daly was red-carded for a tackle on Ciaran Frawley, meaning both sides were brandished cards in the opening two minutes. 


The away side were soon restored to their full complement and they began to put pressure on Connacht, whose defence was stout – withstanding phase after phase of close carries near their line –   and Leinster eventually recycled the ball wide to Rory O’Loughlin to touch down. Ross Byrne added the conversion and Leinster found themselves 7-0 in front after an extremely physical opening fifteen minutes. 


The hosts began to work their way back into the contest from that point, and after a huge break, including defence cutting carries from Niall Murray and Jarrad Butler, they earned a penalty that Carty slotted to put Connacht on the board and bring the score back to 3-7 midway through the first half. 


With one score under their belts, the home team – whose scrum was proving a great launchpad, with replacement Matthew Burke and the entire front row to the fore – pushed for more, and their ambition bore fruit when O’Halloran caught an exquisite offload from Carty, who was playing from a penalty advantage, to touch down for the home teams opening try, which saw Connacht lead 8-7 going into the half time break. 


The second half began with the same ferocious tempo with both teams committed to attack, but it was Leinster who opened the scoring for the second period when David Hawkshaw went over from close range. Byrne slotted the extras the away team lead 14-8.


Two tries soon became two for the visitors when Luke McGrath ran in a try from inside the 22. Hawkshaw added the conversion and the margin stretched to 21-8. 


With their tails up, the away team secured their bonus point try when Ciaran Frawley dived on a bouncing ball in the in-goal area to take the score to 26-8 to Leinster. A fifth try soon followed when Tommy O’Brien fielded an offload to slide in for the five-pointer to take the score to 31-8.


Connacht were still game and dogged, but the man deficit told late on and Josh Murphy added Leinster’s sixth try – which Hawkshaw converted – to grow their lead to 38-8. O’Brien added his second score to take the final score to 45-8 in Leinster’s favour. 


Connacht team: 




15: Tiernan O’Halloran

14: John Porch 

13: Tom Farrell 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Oran McNulty 

10: Jack Carty © 

9: Kieran Marmion 




8: Jarrad Butler 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Niall Murray 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Jack Aungier 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 




16: Jonny Murphy for Dave Heffernan 

17: Matthew Burke for Denis Buckley 

18: Greg McGrath for Jack Aungier 

19: Ultan Dillane for Niall Murray

20: Paul Boyle for Conor Oliver

21: Caolin Blade for Kieran Marmion

22: Sammy Arnold 

23: Diarmuid Kilgallen for Oran McNulty

Senior coach Pete Wilkins is confident that Connacht can get back to winning ways when they resume United Rugby Championship action on Saturday afternoon at home to the Glasgow Warriors. 


The Westerners have been in European action for the previous two weekends and, despite qualifying for the last sixteen of the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time in the club’s history and playing some scintillating attacking rugby, were narrowly defeated by Leicester Tigers and Stade Francais. 


But Wilkins says he trusts the Connacht playing personnel’s mentality and he doesn’t expect them to dwell on their European defeats but instead looking forward to Glasgow with excitement. 


The players, he said, understand where their defeats stemmed from but it hasn’t damaged their enthusiasm to play in the trademark, attacking style of rugby that they play so fluidly. 


“I’d be confident in that I back our players wholeheartedly anyway,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 


“But I’d also be confident in that they have shown a really good understanding – as coaches, we have presented it very clearly, the reasons for the two defeats – and the players have demonstrated a clear understanding of that, both in terms of the questions and comments they have fed back to us. But also in how we referenced it back to how we want to play the game. 


“It’s not inventing something different that we need to do to try to avoid these scenarios, it’s staying true to what we’re doing. We just went too far on the side of the dial in the Leicester game and too far the other in the Stade game. 


“I think it’s returning and re-emphasizing what we know, rather than introducing something new. On those grounds, I am confident that we have learned lessons and, as I said, if one demonstrates they haven’t, then there’s no place to hide in that respect.”


Wilkins excepts Glasgow – whose attack is coached by former Connacht player and coach Nigel Carolan – to implement an attacking game plan at the Sportsground. 


“I think it’s great. Everyone is looking forward to seeing Nigel and it’s probably more an occasion for him – coming back to his home patch – than the other way around, but we’ll looking forward to seeing him and look forward to seeing what they bring. 


“From what we’ve seen of Glasgow, they’ve been true to their identity of the last few seasons, that they want to run the ball, that they want to play with possession and they want to work you around and try to identity space and move the ball to that space. 


“We’re expecting to be up against a possession team, probably a team that kicks less and certainly kicks shorter than the opponents we have had in the last few weeks with Stade and Leicester. It will be a great challenge because you get two teams out there who want to play rugby, who want to be in possession of the ball.


“It’s not just a battle for that possession, it’s also then how efficient and accurate you are with it. We’ll look to put plenty of pressure on them, to test them around that area, and equally, we’ll have to make sure that we’re up to the mark when we’ve got the ball as well. It shapes up to be a really exciting game.”


Meanwhile, back row Paul Boyle says that the competition within the Connacht squad is pushing all the players to reach their top levels. 


The Westerners had four players included in the Irish squad for the upcoming Six Nations, Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, and Mack Hansen, while Cian Prendergast was selected as a development player. 


Boyle says this is an indicator of the quality in the squad and it is pushing him to work even harder on his game and reclaim a regular starting berth in the back row. 


“Yeah, look, it’s really good. Competition breeds success,” the Irish international said. 


“Yes, I have had a couple of injuries. Performance-wise, have I been at my best? No, I’ll admit that I haven’t. So I have had to look into that, why is that. I’m focused on working on the things that have been letting me down and hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity this weekend to start. 


“That’s what everyone is looking for, looking for an opportunity to show what you’re made of and see if you’re good enough to get in.”

By John O’Sullivan


Connacht assistant attack and skills coach Mossy Lawler says that working with the Westerners’ technically skillful squad of players has been an exciting element of his opening months of coaching with the senior squad. 


After six years in a role in the academy, Lawler — a native of Limerick and a former Munster and Wasps player — was promoted into the senior coaching ticket by head coach Andy Friend this past summer. 


Given Connacht’s preference for a quick, attacking game plan, Lawler says that his ideas on rugby and those of fellow coaches, Friend, Peter Wilkins, Dewald Senekal, and Cullie Tucker, are aligned and it has led to a highly productive coaching environment at the Sportsground. 


“It comes down to the identity that’s here,” the former UL Bohemians coach said. 


“That’s how we want to play the game here. That’s how the three past coaches and their vision of the game ties into that identity. From that point of view, it streams down from the top and there’s great alignment to how we want to play the game and execute those skills of the game over and over again in the heat of battle.”


The Westerners’ playing personnel all possess a strong skill base and polished technique and having this basis to work from, Lawler says, is exciting. An added benefit is their willingness to learn and push themselves to improve, which he describes as absolute. 


“When Andy approached me last year to potentially step up and work with the pro and work side by side with Pete(Wilkins), you’d be a fool to say no to that offer.


“When you look at the talent in the group and the backline in the group and the players that we have there, it is really, really exciting. And getting to implement what you want, in relation to patterns and maps, and knowing that these players can deliver that for you on a Saturday is exciting. 


“Working with Pete Wilkins, side by side, and putting those plans into place, irrespective of opposition or in occurrence with the opposition to see what weaknesses or strengths they have, it’s a great job.”


Alongside Lawler, Connacht freshened up their coaching ticket last summer by promoting Cullie Tucker — also from the academy — and hiring Dewald Senekal from the French Top14. 


Despite the newness of their working relationship, Lawler says they work seamlessly together — a factor which is helped by their similar views of the game — and that the fruits of their labour are already clear and will continue to grow over the course of the season. 


“That’s the environment that Andy and Pete provide. Andy isn’t a boss that stands over you and tells you what to do, he lets you get on with your job and for me as a young coach coming in that’s absolutely brilliant and Pete just puts everything together. 


“We all have similar thoughts on how the game should be played and what and how, and that current alignment is great. Dewald has come in and has fit in seamlessly in relation to his role and Cullie and I have always worked together. 


“It comes from the top, the environment that Andy and Pete have created is excellent and it makes it easier for that alignment to happen.”


Having worked in both the academy and with the first team, Lawler is well-positioned to judge Connacht’s present prospects and indeed their future aspirations. 


Thanks to the club’s commitment to development — which comes from the CEO Willie Ruane down the playing and coaching side of the club — the Limerick man, who highlighted the brilliant role played by the club scene and its volunteers in the province, is confident that the Westerners will continue to grow and improve. 


“There’s a great crop coming through,” the assistant attack and skills coach said of the young talent in Connacht’s academy. 


“You could see in last summer’s U20 Six Nations how exceptional some of the guys are. You have the likes of Cathal Forde, the likes of Shane Jennings, Donnacha Byrne, and Oisin McCormack. Darragh Murray, Niall’s brother, didn’t make the squad through injury but, again, a really, really exciting prospect and all indigenous as well which is a big positive. 


“From that point of view, it will be really exciting to get them up to training soon and to see where they go from there and it would be great to see these guys fulfill their potential. 


“It’s the people,” Lawler says of the driving force behind Connacht Rugby — from the amateur clubs all the way to the professional set up — and their collective hunger to grow the game in the province.


“The first time that I moved up here, I was blown away by the people and when you have those individuals who are willing to work hard — through thick and thin — no matter what’s thrown at them, you get your results and that, for me, is the most pleasing part of all.”


By John O’Sullivan


New forward’s coach Dewald Senekal said the highly committed and professional environment at Connacht Rugby was one of the main factors behind his decision to join the club this summer. 


The South African native, a former Bayonne, Toulon, Golden Lions and Agen representative in his playing days, acquired a wealth of coaching experience in the French Top — plying his coaching trade at Bayonne, Grenoble, and Stade Francais — before accepting the offer to take the forward coaching reins at the Sportsground. 


The Westerners’ ambition to win and to develop was attractive to Senekal, who says that the players’ mindsets and hunger around improving their games has been a notable and positive aspect of his first few months in situ in his new post. 


“Through COVID, there was a lot of talk between coaches and a lot of time spent exchanging ideas. Having those discussions with some really good coaches, including some in Ireland, and having visited Munster a few years back on an upskilling mission, I just thought it was a great time for me to come and experience an Irish environment and an Irish professional environment,” he said. 


“It was a very big part of my decision, the profile of the team, and what makes me tick as a coach, which is coaching players, helping them, and seeing them progress. That was a big deciding factor for me. 


“My experience in this first eleven or twelve weeks of working with the team has been absolutely amazing. This team is immensely talented. Even our selection meetings at the moment are big headaches because we feel there are some really good players — younger and older — at the club and trying to choose the right players with the right balance is a positive headache. The hunger of the guys and the professionalism of the guys in the squad has been jaw-dropping for me.”


The defeat to Cardiff last weekend was disappointing, but Senekal is confident there were ample positives to build upon with his ultimate goal for the season to marry a physically dominant pack with the quick, exciting player of the backs. 


“If we just look at the process, and what we were trying to achieve, there was a lot of positives to take from it,” the South African said of the defeat at the Cardiff Arms Park. 


“I was really happy with our scrum. It’s been going against much bigger packs so far in our pre-season games and our first games and we’re looking to continuously build with that. Obviously, there was some good stuff from the front-rowers in the absence of Denis(Buckley), who obviously has a lot of experience. 


“A big work on for us has been around the maul and there have been some good pictures there that are positive. We feel we have the right path and I am sure we will see the fruits of our labour.


“From a team point of view, my goal is to keep growing our players individually and collectively and for us to have a lot of pride in the product that we want to put out there and for people to get excited to see our pack of forwards get rumbling with a really big maul and some big scrums. 


“There’s a real, and I feel it from the players, hunger there to produce some really match-winning performances from our forward pack, built on a dangerous, attacking gameplan.”

Head coach Andy Friend is confident in Connacht’s preparation ahead of the Westerners’ inaugural United Rugby Championship fixture away to the Cardiff Rugby at 7:35 PM on Friday evening. 


Connacht reshuffled their coaching staff over the course of the pre-season, with Dewald Senekal joining the province as a forwards coach, while Collie Tucker and Mossie Lawler have both moved to the first team picture from the academy set up. Peter Wilkins, meanwhile, moved from defence coach to attack coach. 


Friend insists that the new coaches — most of whom have experience of working with the Westerners — will bring a fresh impetus that will prove beneficial as the new season starts and progresses. 


“Yeah, it’s a good feeling and it’s a fresh coaching group,” the Australian, who is going into his fourth season as head coach, said of Connacht’s pre-season preparations. 


“Pete(Wilkins) has been moved into that senior coaching role and he’s thriving in that. As you know, he’s done defence for four years here, but he felt he had done enough with the defence and wanted to get his hands onto the attack stuff and I was more than happy to accommodate him there. He has got great knowledge of the attack. He’s thriving in that position. 


“Collie Tucker and Mossie Lawler, having come through the pathway in our academy which is a nice seamless transition, have come in. Two younger coaches with a lot of energy and a lot of good thought. That’s adding good value. 


“Dewald(Senekal) coming from France, played a lot of Rugby in France and South Africa, has added some newness to our forward pack. Across the board, I think it’s been a pretty seamless transition. I suppose the results will tell us in the next few weeks, but I’m really happy with the way the first ten weeks have gone.”


Given the structure of the Rugby United tournament, Friend is eager for Connacht to start quickly with a win, but the former Australian Sevens coach is wary of the threat posed by Friday’s opponents in Wales. 


The head coach highlighted the Welshmen’s fitness, their fast style of rugby and their familiarity with their 4G pitch as their particular strengths.


Last season, the sides finished on a win apiece in their two meetings and the Australian is expecting a similarly tight contest at the Cardiff Arms Park. 


“We’ve been guilty in the last few years of maybe not getting the start we wanted, we’re very aware of that,” Friend said. 


“We’ve got Cardiff away, as we know, on Friday night. That’s going to be a really tough game. They’re a formidable outfit and they’re very hard to knock over over there. I think we’ve had two successes there in the last ten years, so it’s not an easy game. We’re all aware of that, but our intention is to start well and hopefully — if we’re at our best — it will be a really impressive win for us.”


Meanwhile, club captain Jarrad Butler says the players have enjoyed the pre-season schedule and working with the new coaches ahead of the season’s curtain-raiser. 


The back row, 30, says that there is an air of positive energy around the training camp and he is confident that it will stand the squad in good stead for the season ahead. 


“Even from the start of the pre-season, there was a lot of changes,” the Australian said. 


“But I think it’s been pretty refreshing for the group to have some new voices around the place, new drills, new energy. We’ve definitely gotten that from all the coaching staff. D(Dewald Senekal) has come in with a lot of energy and philosophies he’s had from coaching over in France. 


“Everyone knows Mossie and Collie, having come through the academy, but they were highly regarded, given the stuff they were with the academy, so there was a real eagerness for them to be involved and work on some of the things we felt we needed to work on, come the end of last season. It’s been good.”


With nine new players in the Connacht squad this season, including academy graduates moving to the senior team, the transition isn’t just off the pitch. 


Butler, though, says he enjoys the role of being the club captain and helping these new players — whether they are local or from overseas — to adjust to life with the Westerners. However, the former Brumbies back-row says the environment in Connacht allows for all players, whether young or old, to show their leadership credentials. 


“A lot of new guys have come into the setup and they have been integrated well. I think having a new coaching set up in there has made that transition a little bit easier because everyone has kind of been on the same page. 


“The last couple of years, we have been able to roll onto the following year. This year has been a real change of direction and a real change of style from the coaches, so it’s been new for everybody. 


“In saying that, we had a lot of guys who performed really well last year — you think of guys like Paul Boyle, who had a great year and got himself involved with the Irish squad — you think of guys like Tom Daly and Caolin Blade. 


“You’ve got these younger guys coming in and stepping up to leadership roles as well. It opens the door for them to have a voice. It opens the door for new guys to come in and have a voice as well and I think it works best for everybody.”


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