The Connacht Rugby management team have named their matchday 23 for Saturday’s URC interpro against Munster Rugby (k/o 5.15pm).
 
There are two changes from the club’s last outing against Leicester Tigers two weeks ago, with URC top try-scorer Mack Hansen making a welcome return from injury to start on the wing for the first time in a month. The other change is in the second row where Oisín Dowling comes into the starting side.
 
The rest of the starting XV is unchanged, meaning Hansen forms a back three with winger John Porch and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, while internationals Kieran Marmion, captain Jack Carty, Bundee Aki and Sammy Arnold make up the half-back and centre pairings respectively.
 
The front row is again made up of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, and Ultan Dillane partners Dowling in the second row. Flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver and number 8 Jarrad Butler make up the rest of the starting team.
 
Included on the bench is Academy scrum-half Matthew Devine, with the Ballinasloe RFC man named in a Pro matchday squad for the first time.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“​This is obviously a very important game if we’re to achieve our aim of a top 4 finish in the URC. We’ve no game in the competition for a month after this weekend so it’d be great to have another win under our belt, albeit it against a very strong Munster team.
 
The last four games between the teams have been decided by a single score, so we’ve to make sure we’re on top of our game for the full 80 minutes and take our chances when they come.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 1st January, 17:15 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (196)
14. John Porch (46)
13. Sammy Arnold (25)
12. Bundee Aki (113)
11. Mack Hansen (7)
10. Jack Carty (168) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (195)
1. Matthew Burke (32)
2. Dave Heffernan (153)
3. Finlay Bealham (167)
4. Ultan Dillane (122)
5. Oisín Dowling (13)
6. Cian Prendergast (17)
7. Conor Oliver (29)
8. Jarrad Butler (82)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (109)
17. Tietie Tuimauga (1)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (70)
19. Eoghan Masterson (116)
20. Abraham Papali’i (17)
21. Matthew Devine *
22. Conor Fitzgerald (43)
23. Tom Farrell (66)

Head coach Andy Friend said that the recent postponement of games has only made his squad of players more hungry for Saturday’s 5:15 PM Interprovincial clash against Munster at the Sportsground. 

 

Connacht were due to play Ulster in Belfast on St.Stephens’ Day, but the game was postponed due to positive COVID cases in the Northern provinces squad. 

 

But now the focus shifts to Munster – a team who the Westerners only narrowly last out to, 20-18, in their last meeting at Thomond Park in October – on New Years Day in a game which Friend expects to be physical. 

 

“It wasn’t overly disruptive, it was just more disappointing,” the Australian said of the Ulster postponement. 

 

 

“We all understand it, we understand that people’s wellbeing is at stake here, so we all need to respect that and we do respect that. The hard bit is and the disappointing bit is that you work really hard during the week to get a team and all the detail in the team.”

 

Friend expects the contrast in the style of play between his side and Munster to make for fascinating viewing come 5:15 PM on Saturday. 

 

For Connacht to win, they need to play their own style of Rugby but also match up to the physical credentials of their Southern rivals, he said. 

 

“Yeah, most people that watch the games closely can see the difference between the two styles. That’s our intention, is to try and play our style of Rugby. I have no doubt that Munster will try and play their style of Rugby. 

 

“As Alex(Wootton) says and I agree with him, it’s a great style to play. It does ask a lot of you but at the same time, it gives you a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunities to express yourself. Our intention is to try and continue to play in our way.”

 

Meanwhile, winger Alex Wootton is relishing a run of games for the first team after battling through a spate of injuries this season. 

 

The 27-year-old was a key figure for Connacht last season, running in eleven tries in all competitions and impressing with his all round play. 

 

However, injuries have limited the former Munster player’s involvement to just four games – and one try – this season, and Wootton, who also missed a chunk of pre-season,  is keen to make up for lost time towards the tail end of this campaign and fully acclimate to the on-field strategies brought by the new coaches, Mossy Lawler, Deawald Senekal and Cullie Tucker. 

 

“Yeah, last season was great,” the English-born speedster said. 

 

“A lot has changed since then, I moved up here. Pre-season was fairly tricky with a niggle in my calf and competition for the back three has really stepped up this season. I’m finding it tough to hit my straps or tough to get back to where I was last season, maybe with some of the new stuff that has been put in and just trying to find grips into that. 

 

“I’m doing all I can to get back up there, but normally with a good pre-season you can get back up there fairly easily, but obviously that was a bit tricky, so I’m just putting the effort in, seeing if I can get back up there.”

 

The Westerners have continued to play an expensive, quick brand of attacking rugby this season and Wootton – a former Sevens player – admits it is extremely enjoyable for the players to operate in such a system of play.

 

However, the winger admits that the tweaked game plan is still a work in progress and the players will need to work hard – both in training and in games – to further master it. 

 

The key, he believes, is that the Connacht squad have a common purpose and vision of where they want to go in the future. 

 

“Yeah, it’s one of those game plans that when it’s working, it’s really working,” he said. 

 

“When we’re humming it’s fantastic to watch and it’s about getting that consistency in games and in training where we’re all on the same page and it’s working. 

 

“It’s still a work in progress and we all know where we need to go and that’s something we’ve lacked in the past, not necessarily knowing where we needed to go. We’ve got a clear vision and we’re really happy and we’re all going in the same direction.”

 

As previously communicated before Christmas, Connacht Rugby have had to make a number of difficult ticketing decisions for Saturday’s URC interpro with Munster at The Sportsground.
 
Due to new Government guidelines we will be operating at 50% capacity for the game, far less than the number of tickets already sold.
 
Therefore here is the status of each type of ticket:
 
– All Season Tickets will remain valid for the game in your usual location.
– All tickets purchased via the Connacht Christmas Three package will also be valid.
– All General Sale Match Tickets have unfortunately been cancelled with refunds issued to all ticket buyers. Emails detailing this were sent to all purchasers on Monday 20th December, so please check your spam if needed.
 
We hope to see more of you at The Sportsground in the not-too-distant future.

Tickets are now on General Sale for Connacht’s first three fixtures of 2022, all of which fall on three consecutive Saturdays at The Sportsground.
 
First up is a New Year’s Day interpro with Munster – an annual game which is always one of the hottest tickets in town. Kick-off will be at 5.15pm.
 
A week later on Saturday 8th January we welcome another of the newest arrivals from South Africa with the DHL Stormers visiting the West. That one gets underway at the slightly earlier time of 3pm.
 
Then on Saturday 15th January it’s the visit of Leicester Tigers to The Sportsground in what’s set to be a huge Heineken Champions Cup fixture, and will go a long way to determining which teams make it to the knockout stages. Kick-off there is at 3.15pm.
 
 
BUY MUNSTER MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
BUY STORMERS MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
BUY LEICESTER TIGERS MATCH TICKETS HERE

The Connacht management team have made four changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 interpro against Munster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
After last week’s historic win at the RDS Arena, Andy Friend’s side have been further boosted by the return of a number of internationals and others after injury absences.
 
The first change comes in the front row where Finlay Bealham is restored to tighthead prop – he lines out alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.
 
After coming off the bench last week, Ultan Dillane now comes into the starting side where he partners Quinn Roux in the second row, with Roux remaining as captain.
 
The pack is completed by Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson, and Sean O’Brien who has recovered from injury which has kept him out for the last six weeks.
 
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre after brilliant performances last weekend.
 
The final change comes in the back three where Ben O’Donnell comes in for his first start in a Connacht jersey – forming an exciting trio with Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
Among the replacements include the returning Paul Boyle and Irish international Dave Heffernan.
 
Connacht Rugby can also confirm that all Pro players and management returned negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing. A number of players who have spent the last period in self-isolation will return to training next week.
 
Commenting on the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s win was a testament to the belief and determination that was still present in our squad despite a challenging few weeks. Now it’s all about backing that up and finding another win that will bring us right into contention for a Guinness PRO14 final spot.
We’ve had a very positive week with no news COVID cases and a few players available to us again, but we will still have to be at our best to overcome a Munster side that is full of quality.”

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 9th January, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (28)
14. Ben O’Donnell (1)
13. Sammy Arnold (11)
12. Tom Daly (35)
11. Alex Wootton (10)
10. Jack Carty (148)
9. Caolin Blade (119)
1. Denis Buckley (189)
2. Shane Delahunt (87)
3. Finlay Bealham (147)
4. Ultan Dillane (105)
5. Quinn Roux (105) (C)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (11)
8. Sean Masterson (8)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (135
17. Matthew Burke (17)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (59)
19. Gavin Thornbury (47)
20. Paul Boyle (47)
21. Kieran Marmion (173)
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)
23. Peter Sullivan (6)

PRO14 Rugby have confirmed the dates and kick-off times for Connacht’s Christmas interpros, as well as the rescheduled clash with Benetton.
 
Andy Friend’s side welcome Benetton to The Sportsground on Friday 4th December, the first of three home games during the month.
 
Then at Christmas, Ulster make the trip to The Sportsground on Sunday 27th December, before we head to the RDS to face Leinster on Saturday 2nd January. The festive fixtures are completed on Saturday 9th January when we host Munster.
 
All games kick-off at 7.35pm.

Connacht Eagles 19-22 Munster A

The Connacht Eagles were narrowly defeated by their Munster counterparts in a keenly contested interprovincial clash at the Sportsground today.

Tries from Conor Oliver, Diarmuid Kilgannen and Jack Aungier saw the hosts establish a lead with a quarter of the game remaining, but a late Diarmuid Barron try saw the visitors claim the win in the first professional game to take place outside of Dublin in six months.

There was no signs of rust from either side — despite the lack of game time — in the early proceedings and it was Connacht who struck first blood in the glorious Galway sunshine.

Captain Oliver, against his former club, was the beneficiary of a move started by Jonny Murphy. The hooker made big head way into Munster territory with a hard carry and, after a few phases, Kilgannen spun the ball to the openside to dive over.

The conversion was wide, but the hosts were worthy of their lead.

Munster weren’t long in responding, however, and fly-half Ben Healy ran in for a brilliant solo try which he converted himself to give the visitors a 7-5 lead.

With the winds in their sails, the Southerners extended their lead further when Barron — the former Irish U20’s hooker — picked from the base of a powerful rolling maul to touch down. Healy converted with aplomb to stretch Munster’s lead even further to 14-5.

The first half was proving to be a try laden affair and it was Connacht’s turn to next cross the white wash. Quick thinking from scrum-half Stephen Kerins’ saw the Sligoman run a penalty and establish the Eagles field position deep in Munster territory.

After phases of pressure, the ball was recycled wide to lock Niall Murray and the Roscommon native’s pass found Kilgannen and the winger touched down tight to the left hand touchline. Despite the narrow angle, Conor Dean slotted a brilliant conversion.

Munster would add the final score of a fiercely competitive half with Healy’s penalty taking the half time score to 17-12 to the visitors.

There was no let up in intensity in the second half, even with a raft of changes from both teams.

Aungier, who replaced Conor Kenny at tight-head, made an instant impact when he picked the ball off the back of a surging rolling maul and dove over from close range. Dean once again made no mistake with the conversion and the Eagles established a deserved 19-17 lead.

Munster continued to probe in search of a win and they eventually broke Connacht’s resolve — which had stoutly denied the visitors — with Barron completing his brace with a powerful burst from close range seeing him burrow over the line.

The conversion drifted wide, but Munster held on to seal the victory.

The Eagles will be disappointed to lose but there are ample positives for the players and the coaching staff to take into the season.

Connacht Eagles team:
(15-9)
John Porch; Colm de Buitlear, Sam Arnold, Tom Daly Diarmuid Kilgannen; Conor Dean, Stephen Kerins.

(8-1) Sean Masterson, Conor Oliver(C), Oisin McCormack; Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast; Conor Kenny, Jonny Murphy, Jordan Duggan

Replacements:
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin
17. Matthew Burke
18. Jack Aungier
19. Darragh Murray
20. Joshua Dunne
21. Colm Reilly
22. Cathal Forde
23. Shane Jennings
24. Oran McNulty
25. Peter Sullivan

 

Live Stream of Connacht Eagles vs Munster ‘A’ from The Sportsground.
Saturday 19th September – K/O 2pm

First Half

 

Second Half

The Connacht management have named their team for tomorrow’s ‘behind closed doors’ clash against Munster A at The Sportsground (k/o 2pm). 

The side, captained by flanker Conor Oliver, features a nice blend of talent from the Connacht Academy with members of the Pro team.

 

CONNACHT EAGLES V MUNSTER A (SATURDAY 19TH OCTOBER 2020 @ THE SPORTSGROUND, K/O 2PM).
15. John Porch
14. Colm de Buitléar
13. Sam Arnold
12. Tom Daly
11. Diarmuid Kilgannen
10. Conor Dean
9. Stephen Kerins

1. Jordan Duggan
2. Jonny Murphy
3. Conor Kenny
4. Cian Prendergast
5. Niall Murray
6. Oisin McCormack
7. Conor Oliver (C)
8. Sean Masterson

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin
17. Matthew Burke
18. Jack Aungier
19. Darragh Murray
20. Joshua Dunne
21. Colm Reilly
22. Cathal Forde
23. Shane Jennings
24. Oran McNulty
25. Peter Sullivan

Connacht 14

Munster 19

In a hotly-contested encounter, the boot of JJ Hanrahan was of vital importance to Munster as his kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Jack O’Donoghue scored Munster’s only try while Jack Carty crossed for Connacht in the closing stages but it wasn’t enough.

After a hard-fought opening period, Munster got their first points through a Hanrahan penalty but Connacht closed the gap when Conor Fitzgerald scored one of his own.

With twenty minutes on the clock, after a penalty advantage Hanrahan slotted his second penalty in front of goal.

Munster soon sparked into action and it was O’Donoghue who crossed the try line after a series of pick and goes while Hanrahan added the extras.

Connacht never gave in and added to their tally through Fitzgerald before Hanrahan claimed another three points.

A move just before the break saw Connacht make ground into the Munster 22 and it gave Fitzgerald a chance to reduce the deficit once again, which he duly took.

Hanrahan took his tally to 14 points when he kicked another penalty early in the second half.

Despite Connacht scoring their first try when Carty was released down the blindside with ten minutes remaining, Munster held firm.

So its away interpros next up for against Ulster and Leinster before returning to the Sportsground for Champions Cup action against Toulouse on the 11th of January – Click here for tickets.

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Tom Daly, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (capt); Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Stephen Fitzgerald for O’Halloran (55 mins), Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (both 59), Jack Carty for C Fitzgerald (60), Robin Copeland for Masterson (61), Conor Kenny for Buckley (71), Joe Maksymiw for Roux (72), Stephen Kerins for Blade (73).

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