Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan will all start for Connacht in tomorrow’s crucial inter-conference clash with Cardiff Blues at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
With 6 points separating the two sides between 2nd and 3rd in Conference B, the Connacht management team have drafted the trio straight into the starting team for tomorrow’s clash.
Jarrad Butler returns to captain the side from openside flanker, with Eoghan Masterson and Paul Boyle forming the rest of the back row. Dillane is partnered by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, while Heffernan is joined by props Jordan Duggan and Finlay Bealham to complete the pack.
Duggan will make his first start for the province with his 7 previous appearances coming off the bench.
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty start at 9 and 10 respectively, while Bundee Aki forms an exciting centre partnership with Tom Daly. John Porch continues his run of starting every game this season, forming a back three with wingers Matt Healy and Alex Wootton.
Tiernan O’Halloran, who picked up some game-time for the Eagles last week, is named among the replacements having last played against Ulster during the Christmas interpros.
This week all Connacht players and management returned negative results in the latest round of PCR testing.
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“It’s great to welcome Dave, Ultan and Bundee back into the fold, and they’re re-joining an already healthy group of players. We had tough news for Quinn Roux and Peter Robb this week but overall we’re in a good spot and that’s allowed us to pick a squad based on form.”
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
“Tomorrow marks the start of a block of games that will ultimately define our season. We have a great opportunity to keep the pressure on Munster at the top while opening some daylight between ourselves and the chasing pack. We know our home form isn’t where it should be so this is our opportunity to put that right”.
Saturday 20th February, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

15. John Porch (31)
14. Alex Wootton (13)
13. Tom Daly (38)
12. Bundee Aki (106)
11. Matt Healy (144)
10. Jack Carty (150)
9. Caolin Blade (122)
1. Jordan Duggan (7)
2. Dave Heffernan (137)
3. Finlay Bealham (150)
4. Ultan Dillane (107)
5. Gavin Thornbury (50)
6. Eoghan Masterson (102)
7. Jarrad Butler (66) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (50)

16. Shane Delahunt (90)
17. Denis Buckley (192)
18. Jack Aungier (10)
19. Oisin Dowling (1)
20. Abraham Papali’i (6)
21. Kieran Marmion (176)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (3)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (187)

Ireland internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan have returned to the Connacht starting team to face Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 7:35pm).
The return of the duo is a timely boost to Andy Friend’s side as they prepare for a crucial inter-conference clash that could have a huge bearing on qualification for the knockout stages of the Guinness PRO14.
Ballina native Heffernan comes into a front row alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham. Dillane’s inclusion sees him line up alongside the impressive Gavin Thornbury in the second row with Quinn Roux still unavailable through injury.
In the back row, Captain Jarrad Butler starts at number 8 with Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue as the half back pairing with Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald available off the bench.
With Bundee Aki still unavailable due to international duty, Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin are selected as the midfield partnership. In the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is selected at full back with Matt Healy and John Porch on the wings.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “The break over the past few weeks has come at a good time for the squad. It allowed time for a few injuries to clear up and gave some recovery time to others that had played a lot of minutes over the 13 week block of games. They boys are ready to go now and know the importance of the next three games in the context of our season”.
“With Connacht and Cardiff in the same conference this game becomes even more important. A win in this game last season ultimately qualified us for the knockout stages of the Pro14 and for a spot in the Champions Cup. I’m sure they will be keen to turn the tables this season so we face a huge battle on Saturday”.

Connacht Matchday Squad V Cardiff Blues (Sat 15 Feb, 7:35pm)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.

After a three-week break to coincide with the start of the Six Nations . . . the Guinness PRO14 is back.
Connacht take on Cardiff Blues this weekend at the Sportsground in a crucial Conference B clash – the first of three consecutive games in this mini-block before another break in march.
Here’s all you need to know about the tie.
When’s the game?

Kick-off is at 7.35pm this Saturday 15th February at The Sportsground.
What’s the state of play so far?

It’s fair to say Conference B will be as tight as everyone predicted at the start of the campaign. Connacht sit in 4th place, 5 points outside the playoff spots and 1 point ahead of their opponents at the weekend.

How’s our recent record against them?

The last 5 meetings between the sides at the Sportsground has resulted in 3 wins for Connacht, 1 for Cardiff and 1 draw.

Their last clash with the memorable meeting last April when Connacht came out on top 29-22, booking a place in the Guinness PRO14 playoffs and with it a spot in the Heineken Champions Cup.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht team will be named this Friday at 12pm on the Connacht Rugby social media channels and connachtrugby.ie.

Speaking last week Head Coach Andy Friend said he was hopeful a number of injured players will make their return in the coming weeks, but it’s too early to say who will be involved this weekend.

Are tickets still available?

Yes there are a limited number of Main Stand tickets on sale, with general availability in the Bohermore & College Road Ends.

You could also treat yourself to a Platinum Hospitality package which includes a main course meal and three complimentary drinks along with a Clan Stand ticket and plenty more extras.
What if I can’t make the game?

TG4 will have live TV coverage from 7.15pm while Galway Bay FM will also provide radio commentary.
How can I get there?

There is plenty of car parks within walking distance to The Sportsground, all of which are listed below. Please note that local restrictions will be in place so please respect our neighbours at all times.

Anything else I should know?

🚪 Gates open from 6.05pm.
❌ No smoking is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.

For the first time since that memorable day last April, Cardiff Blues visit the Sportsground next month in a crucial Guinness PRO14 clash.
That game saw both sides go head-to-head with a place in the playoffs on the line, and while Connacht came out on top this next encounter could have equal significance with both teams again in the same Conference.
Ahead of the clash, we can provide the latest ticket update for those thinking of coming to the game.

  • There are a very limited number of tickets available in the Main Stand.
  • Both the Bohermore and College Road Ends have general availability.
  • A premium hospitality package is also available which includes a main course buffet meal, three complimentary drinks, a Clan Stand match ticket and more, all for just €85.



Tries from Caolin Blade, Gavin Thornbury, Jack Carty and Matt Healy ensured Connacht’s spot in the Guinness PRO14 playoffs with a brilliant win over rivals Cardiff Blues at a jubilant Sportsground.
Here are some of the best pics from a windy Sportsground.

Jack Carty inspired Connacht to a fourth consecutive Guinness PRO14 win to secure a top three spot in Conference A by beating Cardiff Blues.
In tough, windy conditions in Galway, Caolin Blade sliced through first before Owen Lane responded for Blues.
Gavin Thornbury gave Connacht the lead before the break, and Carty added another after half time to put them in the driving position.
In a dramatic conclusion, Josh Turnbull powered over to give Blues hope, before Matt Healy scored instantly from the restart for Connacht to get them over the line despite Jason Harries dotting down in the last minute.
Blade opened scoring with some fancy footwork to get beyond the last fender after Paul Boyle broke the defence and offloaded brilliantly on the way down.
Carty converted, but Cardiff responded not long after.
Lane burst through the Connacht line with electric pace and raced underneath the posts as the defenders fell away.
Gareth Anscombe added the extras to level the score halfway through the first half.
Thornbury scored only his second try for Connacht to put them ahead after a driving-maul line-out, with Carty again converting.
Carty had the chance to increase the hosts’ lead with a penalty but his effort went awry due to the strong winds, and Connacht went into the break 14-7 up.
The fly-half redeemed himself after half time by slotting a penalty in front of the posts, bringing his tally in the Guinness PRO14 this season to 142, more than any other players.
Carty then finished off a flowing move from back to front, chipping past Matthew Morgan to touch down and converted his own score, putting Connacht 24-7 in front.
Anscombe pulled three back from the tee with half an hour remaining as they searched for a foothold in the game.
They looked to have done exactly that when Seb Davies pounced on a loose ball in front of Connacht’s try line and put Jason Harries in space down the corner to touch down.
However, the TMO replay showed Harries touching the ball down while his other hand brushed the touchline and the score was chalked off.
Blues were vindicated shortly after, with Turnbull muscling over from a driving-maul line-out, but Connacht pressured Blues straight from the kick off and Healy jumped on an error to dot down in the corner.
There was still drama to ensue, as Anscombe put Harries over in the corner with a minute remaining to give them hope, but Connacht turned the ball over in added time and kicked it out to hold on to a valuable victory that sealed their first quarter-final in three seasons.

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting team for the vital Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues in a sold out Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Centre Bundee Aki replaces Peter Robb while flanker Paul Boyle comes in for Eoin McKeon as Connacht target a win that will send them through to the playoffs of the Guinness PRO14 and guarantee a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Aki will form a midfield partnership with Tom Farrell who was withdrawn early as a precaution against Zebre but is fit and available to take on Connacht’s Welsh rivals. There is a familiar look to the back three with Tiernan O’Halloran named at full back while Darragh Leader and Matt Healy are selected on the wings.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade will also continue their half back partnership.
Paul Boyle’s selection at blindside sees him come into a back row with openside Colby Fainga’a and Captain Jarrad Butler at number 8.
The front five is unchanged with props Denis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy lining up in the front row alongside hooker Dave Heffernan. In the second row Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury continue their partnership.
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says he knows what is at stake against conference rivals Cardiff: “The stakes are really high but our destiny remains in our own hands. If we perform on Saturday and can win the game we can secure that play-off on Saturday and ensure a Champions Cup spot, which would be brilliant.”
“We know what we need to do to get a result. We must make sure we are nice and direct, that we control the football when we have it, and when we don’t, we don’t give them easy yardage”, Friend added.
Commenting on his team selection he added: “We have made just two changes from the side that played last weekend, so we have consistency which is important going into a big game like this. We welcome Bundee Aki back into the side and as always he is rearing to go and get out there in front of the Sportsground crowd. Paul Boyle also comes back into the back row where we have the luxury of being able to rotate players due to our depth. We also have some great options off the bench”.
Connacht Matchday Squad:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Robin Copeland, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Cian Kelleher.

Andy Friend and his management team held team training at The Sportsground this morning as the club prepares for a season-defining Guinness PRO14 match with Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
The squad go into the game knowing victory of any kind with guarantee a playoff spot while also ensuring Heineken Champions Cup qualification for next season.
Here are some of the best pics from this morning’s session.


This Saturday is our final home game of the Guinness PRO14 Conference stage, and as finales go it doesn’t get much bigger.

Cardiff Blues visit the West for a season-defining Guinness PRO14 clash, with the playoffs and Heineken Champions Cup rugby on the line.

Here’s everything you need to know about the clash.

When’s the game?

Kick-off at the Sportsground is at 3pm this Saturday 13th April.

What’s the state of play in the race for the playoffs?

In summary, Saturday is a de facto play-off for the play-offs. A win for Connacht of any kind will guarantee a top 3 finish in Conference A and a place in the quarter-finals against the 2nd place team in Conference B. There’s also the added bonus of Heineken Champions Cup qualification for 2019/20.

A losing bonus point for Andy Friend’s side would still ensure they’ll be 3rd going into the final league game, but Cardiff would close the gap to, at most, a single point. With Connacht travelling to Munster and Cardiff taking on Ospreys on the final day, that would set up a grandstand finish that would go right to the wire.

How’s our recent record against them?

Cardiff are on a run of three straight wins over Connacht – most recently the 8-7 victory at the Cardiff Arms Park at the end of January.

They were victorious in their last trip to the Sportsground, scoring a late try to seal the win in the early stages of the 2017/18 campaign. The previous season saw Connacht come out on top 18-7.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Friday when it will be named on connachtrugby.ie and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

Are tickets still available?

Due to the understandably huge demand the Main Stand, Grant Thornton Seated Stand and Enclosure are all SOLD OUT, while hospitality tickets for the Clan Stand are also no longer available. A limited number of tickets are available in the Bohermore Road and College Road ends, but we would advise you to book as soon as possible as there is no guarantee of availability close to the weekend.

What if I can’t make the game?

There will be live TV coverage on TG4 with the build-up beginning at 2.30pm.

Anything else I should know?

At half-time the Top Oil / Irish Independent Connacht Schools Team of the Year will be announced and presented on the field. Then after the game it’s straight over to the Salthill Hotel where the 2018/19 Connacht Rugby Awards will take place!

Fantastic support once again on Saturday, see gameday through the eyes of a fan in our behind the scenes video ⬇️

On the road for our next three games (see fixture details here), we are then back at home for a triple-header against Worcester Warriors, Munster & Cheetahs – buy tickets here.



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