Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made four changes to his starting team to face Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO14 at Murrayfield on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
With Dave Heffernan and Ultan Dillane unavailable due to international duty and Gavin Thornbury picking up an injury last weekend, all four changes come in the forward pack that dominated Cardiff last time out.
 
In the front row, prop Denis Buckley and hooker Shane Delahunt are the two new faces with tighthead Finlay Bealham retained from the Cardiff game, while in the second row, Joe Maksymiw and Niall Murray both come into the starting team.
 
The back row does remain unchanged with Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively and captain Jarrad Butler at number 8.
 
There are no changes in the backs which means that Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion continue their half-back partnership, while in midfield Kyle Godwin and Peter Robb will hope to make a big impact against the conference rivals.
 
The side is completed by a back three that includes Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back and Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch on the wings.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We put in a good performance against Cardiff, but we know there are still areas for improvement and Edinburgh in Murrayfield are a different prospect this week. They have set the pace in our conference and are sitting top of the table. We know that results against them at home and away between now and the end of the season will have a huge bearing on our qualification prospects”.
 
“We have made four changes to our starting team from last weekend but there is still a familiar look to it. We have selected a team that we feel will challenge Edinburgh and we are looking forward to the challenge on Friday evening”, Friend added.
 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Edinburgh (Fri 21 Feb, 7:35pm)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, John Porch, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of a number of players for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 meeting with the Southern Kings at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).
 
Bundee Aki is named at inside centre having missed last week’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse, and he plays alongside Kyle Godwin. There’s also a return from injury for Niyi Adeolokun who joins a back three with John Porch on the opposite wing and Matt Healy at full-back.
 
The backs are completed by Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald who continue their half-back partnership.
 
In the pack there’s an all-new front row from the side that started in Toulouse last week. Denis Buckley has recovered from an illness to start at loosehead with Finlay Bealham at tighthead and the in-form Tom McCartney as hooker.
 
Quinn Roux continues to captain the side from the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, while a back row of Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a and Paul Boyle completes the side.
 
Meanwhile club captain Jarrad Butler is likely to see some game time after missing the opening two games in Europe due to injury. The back row is named among the replacements.
 
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“We were very disappointed not to come away with anything from France last week, so this is a good opportunity for the squad to bounce back. Bundee Aki, Niyi Adeolokun and Jarrad Butler are all back in the squad so we’re improving on the injury front.”
 
Speaking on the challenge posed by the Kings, Friend added:
“It’s important to keep our discipline in games like this. The Kings have had two weeks without a game, so all their focus has been on us, and they’ll be looking to build on their win away to the Ospreys as well. We’re heading into a few crucial games against Gloucester so it’s important we keep building our performances.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS
(15-9): Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade. (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (C), Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Jarrad Butler, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.
 
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Head Coach Andy Friend has made four changes to the Connacht starting team from the side that recorded a bonus point win over Dragons two weeks ago.
 
With Tiernan O’Halloran and Paddy McAllister out of action until December, Connacht have had to reshuffle slightly but Darragh Leader has returned from a leg injury to take his place on the bench.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald comes straight into the side at fullback for the injured O’Halloran. He is part of a new look back three that sees Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch on the wings. Fitzgerald’s brother Conor is retained at out half following his impressive start to the season, and he forms a half back partnership with Kieran Marmion.
 
The midfield remains unchanged with Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin continuing their partnership.
 
Loosehead Denis Buckley comes back into the side for his first start of the season, alongside hooker Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
 
The second row sees Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux together for the fourth straight game, while the backrow also has a familiar look to it with Captain Jarrad Butler at openside, Eoghan Masterson at blindside and Paul Boyle occupying the number 8 jersey.
 
Connacht face a Cheetahs side that have been hugely impressive in their opening games with three bonus point wins recorded in Bloemfontein. This impressive form is something that Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says his side will be well prepared for:
 
“The Cheetahs have been impressive in their opening three games and have three bonus points on the board so we will have to be at our best against them. But we have a had a really good start to the season as well, with two wins from our opening three games so fans can expect an exciting game on Saturday evening”.
 
Commenting on his team selection he added; “Unfortunately we have to plan without Tiernan O’Halloran and Paddy McAllister until December but I have always said that this block of thirteen games in a row was going to require real depth in our squad. We have picked a match day 23 targeting a home win.”

 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Toyota Cheetahs (Sat 26 OCT, 5.15PM)
 
(15-9): Stephen Fitzgerald, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader.

Connacht Rugby have confirmed that prop Denis Buckley has signed a two-year contract extension that will see him remain at his home province until the end of the 2020-21 season.
 
The Roscommon native has made over 150 appearances for Connacht since making his debut as an Academy player in 2011.
 
Buckley has previously been part of Irish underage squads at U18 and U20 level. In 2018, he played on the Barbarians side that defeated England in Twickenham.
 
Announcing the contract extension, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are delighted that Denis has extended his contract for a further two seasons. He is a highly experienced prop who will be an important part of our plans in the years ahead. He is another one of our homegrown players who grew up in the province and it is great to see him extend his time at the Sportsground”.
 
Commenting on his contract extension, Denis Buckley added: “I am proud of my involvement with Connacht and I am delighted to have signed a contract extension for a further two seasons. We have a squad of players who are hugely ambitious about what we can achieve at Connacht and I look forward to playing my part in those plans. I am fortunate to have played as a professional rugby player with my home province and I am grateful to everyone who has supported me on and off the field over the past few years”.
 

Prop Denis Buckley is set to make his 150th appearance for his province as the Roscommon man is named in Connacht’s starting side to face Munster in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 7:35pm). Tickets for the interpro derby have completely sold out as Andy Friend’s side go into the fixture with six wins in their last seven games.
 
Buckley is named in a front row that includes hooker Dave Heffernan who takes over the captaincy from Jarrad Butler who picked up a knock in the win over Ulster. In the second row the partnership of Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury continues with Ultan Dillane named among the replacements.
 
In the back-row Paul Boyle is named at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Eoghan Masterson coming into the starting side at number 8.
 
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half back partnership, with Blade named in the match day squad for the 16th game in a row.
 
In the midfield Tom Daly, who joined Connacht on loan in December, is set to make his Connacht debut alongside Tom Farrell.
 
In the back three, Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy returns from injury to take his place on the wing with Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Darragh Leader at full back.
 
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend, says his side face another huge challenge against Munster; “This block of three interpros is a tough series of fixtures and has a huge bearing on the overall context of the season. We were disappointed to lose narrowly to Leinster in Dublin but we showed great character to bounce back and beat a really tough Ulster side last weekend. This clash with Munster is a big game and we will have to put in a huge performance to get a result on Saturday. As always though we will focus on our game. That’s where our focus has been all week and that’s where it has been all season.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added; “Dave Heffernan takes over the captaincy from Jarrad this week as he is carrying a knock. It’s also a huge occasion for Denis Buckley and his family as he will play his 150th game in a Connacht jersey. We are looking forward to another huge occasion in the Sportsground and we can see the people of the province have voted with their feet again with the game completely sold out since early in the week. They have been huge for us this season both home and away and we will be looking to feed off them again on Saturday evening.
 
#CONvMUN
 
Kick-off 7:35pm:
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (Capt), Dominic Robertson Mc-Coy, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Angus Lloyd, David Horwitz, Colm DeBuitlear.
 

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.

Flanker Jarrad Butler and prop Denis Buckley have returned to the Connacht side to face Benetton Rugby in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 12pm Irish time). Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed the game against Zebre last week with a short-term injury is also back in Kieran Keane’s starting XV.

Having come through a full 80 minutes last weekend, flanker Sean O’Brien is named at blindside in an experienced back row that includes Butler and veteran captain John Muldoon.

Jack Carty is named at out half where he will form a half back pairing with Caolin Blade.

The squad is also boosted by the return of Niyi Adeolokun from injury and Ultan Dillane from international duty, with both named among the replacements. Dillane will return to Irish camp after the clash in Italy.

The clash with Benetton on Saturday will form the first leg of a tour for Connacht which will take mostly the same personnel on to Bloemfontein in South Africa to play the Cheetahs on Saturday 3rd of March.

Speaking ahead of the two away fixtures, Head Coach Kieran Keane emphasised the importance of having depth in the squad. “We have a number of players coming back from injury which will be a big boost against Treviso on Saturday. They are on a great run of wins and I’m sure they will be targeting us especially when they have been so competitive at home this season”, Keane said.

“The majority of the squad will travel on to South Africa, but we have put plans in place for replacements to join the squad after the game in Italy. These two games will really test the depth of our squad and we will need to be at our best if we want to win them”, he added.

 

#BENvCON

Kick-off 12pm (Irish Time):

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

The Connacht Medical team have issued a squad update ahead of their interprovincial clash with Munster in Thomond Park on Saturday (K.O. at 7:45pm). Cian Kelleher is the only new injury concern after the New Year’s Day fixture away to Leinster and has been ruled out of the Munster game.

 

Prop:
Denis Buckley underwent surgery this week on an ankle injury sustained versus Brive last month and will be out of action until mid-February.

Dominic Robertson McCoy has returned to full team training this week following his thumb injury.

JP Cooney is recovering from recent hamstring surgery and will be out of action until April.

 

Hooker:

Pat O’Toole is continuing his rehabilitation for his hamstring injury under the supervision of the medical and performance team.

 

Lock:
Andrew Browne has stepped up his rehabilitation from his Achilles injury and will return to action in early January.

 

Outhalf:

Steve Crosbie will be out of action until the end of January with a knee injury.

 

Back Row:
Eoin McKeon is progressing well in his rehabilitation from a calf injury and will be out of action until the end of January.

James Connolly is continuing his recovery from a recent calf injury and is due to integrate into team training next week.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will return to team training in late January.

Jake Heenan is recovering from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until April.

 

Back Three:
Cian Kelleher sustained a head injury in the game versus Leinster and will follow return to play protocols.

Rory Scholes has returned to full team training this week following his appendix surgery.

Cormac Brennan will return in February following shoulder surgery.

Ahead of the New Year’s Day clash with Leinster in the RDS, the Connacht Medical Team have issued a squad update. Thankfully, there are no new injury concerns following on from last weekend’s victory over Ulster in the Sporstground but there are updates on a number of existing injuries.

The starting XV to take on Leinster will be announced on Saturday 30th of December.

 

Prop:
Denis Buckley sustained an ankle injury in the game versus Brive (H) and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

Dominic Robertson McCoy will integrate partially into training over the next two weeks and will return to action in early January.

JP Cooney is recovering from his recent hamstring surgery and will be out of action until April.

 

Hooker:

Pat O’Toole sustained a hamstring injury in training last week and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

 

Lock:
Andrew Browne has stepped up his rehabilitation from his achilles injury and and will return to action in early January.

 

Outhalf:

Steve Crosbie will be out of action until the end of January with a knee injury.

 

Back Row:
Eoin McKeon is progressing well in his rehabilitation from a calf injury and will be out of action until the end of January.

Jake Heenan is recovering from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until April.

Jarrad Butler had no ill effects following his return to play versus Ulster at the weekend.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will return to team training in mid January.

 

Back Three:

Rory Scholes has stepped up his rehabilitation from his abdominal surgery and and will return to action in early January.

Cormac Brennan will return in February following shoulder surgery.

 

Kieran Keane and Denis Buckley spoke to the media along with Southern Kings Assistant Coach Barend Pieterse ahead of Saturday night’s historic encounter at the Sportsground (7.35pm).

Tickets are still available for the game on Saturday night (7.35pm) with savings of up to 15% available when purchased online.

Our starting line-up will be announced at 11.45am tomorrow.

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