Back row Robin Copeland is set to make his Connacht debut as Andy Friend’s side take on Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14 in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm).

Copeland’s inclusion is one of six changes to the Connacht side that took on Edinburgh last weekend. Irish International Bundee Aki is also included in the starting XV having come off the bench in Murrayfield to make his first appearance of the season. Aki forms a midfield partnership with Tom Farrell who returns after recovering from a stomach bug that ruled him out last weekend.

Winger Cian Kelleher is named on the wing and is part of a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Prop Denis Buckley is back in at loosehead to make his third start of the season while Gavin Thornbury is named alongside Quinn Roux in the second row.

Copeland’s inclusion at number 8 sees him named in a back row that also features team captain Jarrad Butler at openside and blindside Sean O’Brien.

Commenting on Copeland’s impending debut, Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have been really impressed with Robin in the pre-season both on and off the field. His energy and maturity have been a big addition to the wider group. He played 40 minutes for the Eagles side last weekend and he came through that ok after a niggly injury, so he is good to go for Scarlets”.

With last season’s finalists Scarlets and Leinster visiting the Sportsground over the next two weekends, Friend said: “Scarlets are a quality side and we expect a huge challenge from them. They are one of the top teams in this competition, so it is a massive game for us. We have a really healthy competition in our squad at the moment and that is exactly what we need as the big games keep coming”.

 

#CONvSCA

Kick-off 5:15pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

Connacht Rugby are pleased to announce that the Connacht U18 Boys & Girls teams will be the guests of honour at this Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 tie between Connacht and Scarlets at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).

The Connacht U18 Girls team made history last weekend when they sealed the interprovincial title, beating Leinster 21-19 to complete a clean sweep of victories in the competition. It’s the first time in the province’s history an U18 Girls team has won an interprovincial series.

The victory came on the back of a similar feat by the Connacht U18 Boys, who also won the interprovincial title at the U18s Festival at University of Limerick in late August.

 

 

Their achievements are especially significant as it is the first time ever that Connacht have won both male and female interprovincial titles in the same season.

As a result both sets of squads and management will be attending the game and will parade their trophies at half-time, following which the head coaches and captains will be interviewed on the the field.

The Month of Champions continues this Saturday when 2016/17 champions and last year’s finalists Scarlets pay a visit to the Sportsground for another massive game in the Guinness PRO14.

With both sides looking to play free flowing attacking rugby where possible, it promises to be a hugely exciting occasion for the fans. Here’s all you need to know about the tie.

 

When’s the game?

Kick-off is this Saturday 22nd September at 5.15pm at The Sportsground.

 

How have Scarlets fared in the Guinness PRO14 so far?

Scarlets began their campaign in Kingspan Stadium when a late penalty by former Connacht player John Cooney secured a 15-13 win for Ulster. They picked up their first win of the campaign a week later with a 23-21 win over Leinster in a repeat of last year’s final. They then made it back-to-back wins, overcoming Benetton Treviso 38-29 at Pairc y Scarlets. Those results leaves them sitting in 3rd place in Conference B.

 

How’s our recent record against them?

It’s almost a year to the day since our last meeting – coming on 29th September 2017 when Scarlets were the victors 36-27, while they also picked up wins both times we met in the 2016/17 season. Our last victory over the Welsh side came in January 2016 when we were 30-17 winners.

 

 

Who are the players to look out for?

Scarlets lined out against Treviso with the likes of Welsh internationals Leigh Halfpenny, Gareth Davies and Ken Owens in the side. It’s unsure yet whether centre Jonathan Davies, who has missed almost a year through injury, will be back in time for the game.

 

When will the team be announced?

The team will be announced at midday on Friday on the Connacht Rugby social media channels.

 

Where can I buy tickets?

Tickets are on sale now at connachtrugby.ie/tickets. Please note there is limited availability remaining for the main terrace so you need to act fast!

 

Anything else I should know?

At half-time the victorious Connacht U18 Boys and Girls teams will take to the field after their successful interprovincial campaigns. It’s the first time in Connacht’s history that interpro titles have been won by both male and female teams in the same year, so make sure you give the squads the reception they deserve!

Having recovered from a severe knee injury last season, Eoghan Masterson has made a strong start to the season and spoke to the media this week about his return to full fitness and tonight’s away clash against Scarlets (7.35pm, live on BBC Wales).

Guinness PRO12

Connacht 8-30 Scarlets

Connacht fell to a disappointing defeat to in-form Scarlets at the Sportsground with the visiting Welsh side producing an excellent performance.

It was a tough night for Connacht with most of the damage done in the first half as the province trailed 22-3 at the break. Craig Ronaldson touched down in the second half to provide a glimmer of hope but Scarlets finished strongly with a late try putting a gloss on the scoreline.

Despite a promising start for Connacht with ball in hand as they played with the benefit of the elements, Scarlets hit the front on four minutes after their first visit into the Connacht 22.

Full-back Johnny McNicholl was released down the left flank and he cut inside opposite number Tiernan O’Halloran to touch down under the posts with Rhys Patchell adding the extras.

Connacht responded well and Marnitz Boshoff slotted over a penalty from the right of the posts on 10 minutes after a decent period of pressure.

Scarlets looked extremely dangerous with ball in hand and Steff Evans crossed in the left corner three minutes later after a brilliant backline move off a scrum with McNicholl making the initial break.

Again, Connacht looked to hit back immediately but Boschoff pulled his penalty wide after a high tackle on the out-half.

All of the Scarlets offloads were sticking and they touched down again through Evans on 26 minutes in the left corner. McNicholl provided the telling pass just before he was bundled into touch with everything going the visitors’ way as they led 17-3.

The fourth Scarlets try arrived on the half-hour with the Welsh side rampant as Steff Evans released Liam Williams for their fourth try for a 22-3 half-time lead.

After some harsh words in the dressing room at the interval, Connacht came out for the second half desperate to get back in the game.

The first five minutes of the half were spent in Scarlets territory but a scrum penalty went against the hosts and a huge Patchell penalty relieved the pressure.

Connacht were really digging in and were finally rewarded just before the hour as a Ronaldson try brought the hosts back in contention.

The pack set up the opportunity as they disrupted a Scarlets scrum with Jake Heenan making good ground before Dave Heffernan was stopped just short.

Connacht showed great patience to eventually work the ball wide to the left with O’Halloran feeding Tom Farrell with a clever as the centre released Craig Ronaldson to cross in the left corner.

The try was thoroughly deserved and Boshoff was unlucky to see his conversion come back off the post as Connacht now trailed 22-8.

Needing two converted tries in the final 20 minutes, a draw was till within the hosts’ reach but it became a bridge too far when Patchell landed his first penalty on 66 minutes to move Scarlets 25-8 in front.

A superb ankle-tap by Cian Kelleher on Patchell nearly led to a second Connacht try moments later but a handling error saw the opportunity go abegging.

Scarlets finished with a flourish as DTH van der Merve crossed in the right corner late on to cap off an impressive performance.

A presentation was made at full-time for the squad members who will be departing at the end of the season with full details of the departures here.

The final standings will be confirmed following the last PRO12 game of the season next Saturday as Connacht travel to Thomond Park to face Munster (5.15pm).

Connacht: T O’Halloran (D Poolman, 72); D Leader, T Farrell, E Griffin (C Ronaldson, 27), C Kelleher; M Boshoff, C Blade (J Cooney, 62); F Bealham (JP Cooney, 68), D Heffernan (S Delahunt, 68), D Robertson-McCoy (D Buckley h-t); J Cannon (Q Roux, 46), A Browne; S O’Brien, J Heenan, E Masterson (J Muldoon, 46).

Ahead of Connacht’s final Guinness PRO12 home game this season, head coach Pat Lam has made ten changes to his side to face Scarlets at the Sportsground tomorrow night (7:35pm).

Darragh Leader, who this week signed a new deal with his home province, will start on the right wing for his first game in 18 months having returned from long-term injury.  On the other wing, Cian Kelleher also returns following a long-term absence this season with injury.

Tom Farrell and Eoin Griffin make up a new centre partnership while Marnitz Boshoff is handed the reins at outhalf, with Caolin Blade starting in the number nine shirt.

Up front, Ireland international Finlay Bealham shifts to loosehead prop to allow Dominic Robertson-McCoy pack down at tighthead. James Cannon forms a second-row partnership with Andrew Browne who captains the side on Saturday night.

Sean O’Brien and Eoghan Masterson are promoted to the starting back row where they join Jake Heenan.

Commenting on the upcoming game, Pat Lam said:

“With Champions Cup being our main focus, the next two games present a great opportunity to prepare for the qualification playoffs in May. It allows us to give guys coming back from long-term injuries a chance to perform against a quality Scarlets side.

“Tomorrow night is our last PRO12 game at home and as always, we will be looking to put in a huge effort for us and our supporters who have been fantastic all season.”

Connacht team to face Scarlets

Saturday, April 29th, kick off 7.35pm, the Sportsground

(Connacht caps in brackets)

15        Tiernan O’Halloran (125)
14        Darragh Leader (51)
13        Tom Farrell (7)
12        Eoin Griffin (77)
11        Cian Kelleher (11)
10        Marnitz Boshoff (2)
9          Caolin Blade (43)

1          Finlay Bealham (80)
2          Dave Heffernan (82)
3          Dominic Robertson-McCoy (9)
4          James Cannon (15)
5          Andrew Browne (153) (captain)
6          Sean O’Brien (37)
7          Jake Heenan (52)
8          Eoghan Masterson (36)

Replacements:

16        Shane Delahunt (26)
17        Denis Buckley (116)
18        JP Cooney (48)
19        Quinn Roux (55)
20        John Muldoon (300)
21        John Cooney (37)
22        Craig Ronaldson (65)
23        Danie Poolman (83)

Injured/unavailable: Tom McCartney, Ronan Loughney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Kieran Marmion, Steve Crosbie, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Stacey Ili, Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun.

CONNACHT v SCARLETS
Saturday 29th April
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C

Get your match ticket for Connacht v Scarlets here

Referee:  Mike Adamson (SRU, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton (SRU), Helen O’Reilly (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner:  Murray Whyte (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)

 

Connacht host Scarlets in their final Guinness PRO12 home game of the season at the Sportsground on Saturday night with Champions Cup qualification within reach (7.35pm).

Don’t miss your final chance to see Connacht at the Sportsground in the PRO12 this season, get your match ticket for Saturday night here

With a place in the top eight secured, the focus now is on building momentum ahead of the play-off semi-final next month away to either French or English opposition.

In-form Scarlets will provide a formidable challenge but Connacht have lost just twice in Galway since mid-September with the home crowd roaring the Westerners to nine wins in their last 11 home games.

Last time out, Connacht played some scintillating rugby in a thrilling encounter against Leinster but the visitors were clinical on the night and took every chance that came their way to record a 37-24 victory.

Following the Scarlets clash, Connacht are on the road to Thomond Park for the final PRO12 game of the season on Saturday, May 6 (5.15pm).

We have a once in a lifetime prize to give away – a one-off, specially embroidered, signed Connacht jersey to mark captain John Muldoon’s 300th Connacht appearance. Click here for more details.

The 20th place in the Champions Cup will be decided by a series of play-off matches that will include the following clubs:

  • The seventh-ranked club from the Premiership, or the winner of the Challenge Cup if from the Premiership and not already qualified for the Champions Cup.
  • The seventh-ranked club from the TOP 14, or the winner of the Challenge Cup if from the TOP 14 and not already qualified for the Champions Cup.
  • The clubs that finish 7th and 8th in the Guinness PRO12.

Play-Off Draw

19/20/21 May

Play-off 1: Aviva Premiership (seventh-ranked club) v Guinness PRO12 (Team that finish 8th – Cardiff Blues or Connacht)

Play-off 2: TOP 14 (seventh-ranked club) v Guinness PRO12 (Team that finish 7th – Cardiff Blues or Connacht)

The Premiership and TOP 14 clubs will have home advantage.

26/27/28 May

Play-off Final: winner Play-off 1 v winner Play-off 2 (The winner of Play-off 1 will have home advantage).

The winner of the Play-off final will take the 20th place in the 2017/18 Champions Cup.

Connacht’s possible play-off semi-final opponents

France: Lyon Olympique, Stade Francais, Pau, Castres, Bordeaux-Begles, Brive, Toulouse, Racing 92, Toulon.

England: Harlequins, Gloucester, Northampton, Newcastle, Bath.

Connacht’s semi-final opponents will either be decided following the completion of the PRO12, Top14 and Premiership on Saturday, May 6, or after the European Challenge Cup final between Stade Francais and Gloucester on Friday, May 12.

 

See our latest squad update here and the match preview for Connacht v Scarlets here.

Ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 game at home to Scarlets, the Connacht Rugby medical team have provided the following update.

Conor Carey will integrate into training with the squad this week following his foot injury sustained in December.

Quinn Roux has completed his GRTP protocols following the head injury he sustained v Leinster.

Eoin McKeon has completed his GRTP protocols following the head injury he sustained v Leinster.

Steve Crosbie sustained an AC joint injury in the game v Leinster and will be monitored this week.

Niyi Adeolokun sustained a hamstring injury in the game v Leinster and will be out of action for 4-5 weeks.

Matt Healy has recovered from his recent hand injury and will return to partial training this week.

Cian Kelleher will integrate into training with the squad this week following his hamstring injury sustained in December.

CONNACHT v SCARLETS
Saturday 29th April
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C

Get your tickets for Connacht v Scarlets here.

Referee:  Mike Adamson (SRU, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton (SRU), Helen O’Reilly (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner:  Murray Whyte (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)

 

Did you know?

  • The Irishmen have lost just twice in Galway since mid-September: against Munster on New Year’s Eve and Leinster in round 20.
  • Connacht’s only two home defeats to Welsh regions in the last three seasons have both been to Ospreys.
  • Connacht Rugby’s only victory in the last four rounds of the Guinness PRO12 came on a visit to Edinburgh on 7 April.
  • Scarlets only loss in the last nine rounds of the Guinness PRO12 was to Leinster in Dublin on 4 March, a defeat which also saw them end a four game winning run against Irish provinces.
  • Connacht have won only two of their last ten encounters against Scarlets – both in Galway, in November 2014 and January 2016.

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Connacht 8 won 16, Scarlets won 18 with 1 game drawn.

CONNACHT RUGBY v SCARLETS

Saturday 29th April
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C

Get your match ticket for Connacht v Scarlets here

Referee:  Mike Adamson (SRU, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton (SRU), Helen O’Reilly (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner:  Murray Whyte (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)

HEAD TO HEAD – RECENT GUINNESS PRO12 MEETINGS
Date Venue

C

S

Connacht scorers Scarlets scorers
Sun 30 Mar 14 Parc y Scarlets

30

32

Eoin McKeon(T) Robbie Henshaw(T) Kieran Marmion(T) Fionn Carr(T) Dan Parks(2P) Miah Nikora(2C) Gareth Davies(T) Jonathan Davies(T) Gareth Maule(T) Rhys Priestland(3C/2P) Josh Turnbull(T)
Sat 29 Nov 14 Sportsground

14

8

Matt Healy(T) Jack Carty(3P) Harry Robinson(T) Steve Shingler(P)
Sun 15 Feb 15 Parc y Scarlets

14

32

Jack Carty(3P) Niyi Adeolokun(T) Harry Robinson(T) Steve Shingler(3C/2P) Jordan Williams(T) James Davies(T) Michael Tagicakibau(T)
Sun 10 Jan 16 Parc y Scarlets

19

21

Matt Healy(T) Jack Carty(2P) Craig Ronaldson(C/2P) Mike Collins(T) Steve Shingler(P) Steffan Evans(T) Aled Thomas(C/2P)
Sat 30 Jan 16 Sportsground

30

17

Denis Buckley(T) Jack Carty(2C/2P) Jake Heenan(2T) Rodney Ah You(T) DTH van der Merwe(T) Aled Thomas(2C/P) Gareth Owen(T)
Sat 24 Sep 16 Parc y Scarlets

8

17

Jack Carty(P) Niyi Adeolokun(T) Rhys Patchell(2C/D) Liam Williams(2T)

 

COMPARISON Connacht Scarlets
Last 3 PRO12 results: 1 Apr – Zebre (A) L 22-25 24 Mar – Edinburgh (H) W 26-10
  7 Apr – Edinburgh (A) W 22-19 8 Apr – Treviso (H) W 51-5
  15 Apr – Leinster (H) L 24-37 15 Apr – Dragons (A) W 21-16
 
PRO12 2016/17 8th – W9 D0 L11 – 44pts 3rd – W15 D0 L5 – 67pts
Last 6 PRO12 form wWllwL (15pts) WwlWWw (23pts)
Top try scorer 6 – Niyi Adeolokun 8 – Steffan Evans
Top points scorer 70 – Jack Carty 107 – Rhys Patchell

 

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