Finlay Bealham and Jack Carty will both line out for Connacht for the 150th time in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 fixture away to Dragons (k/o 7.35pm).
 
Both Irish internationals are products of the Connacht Academy, with Carty making his Pro debut in September 2012 and Bealham in February 2014. Between them they have won 24 Ireland caps.
 
Bealham lines out in a front row alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt, while Niall Murray and Gavin Thornbury form a new-look second row partnership. Paul Boyle captains the side from blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver on the opposite flank and Abraham Papali’i at number 8. Thornbury and Boyle will also hit the milestone of 50 caps for Connacht.
 
Carty will be joined by Caolin Blade in the half-back slots, while the centre partnership is unchanged with Peter Robb alongside Tom Daly. The back three consists of Matt Healy, Peter Sullivan and John Porch.
 
Among the replacements is Oisin Dowling who is in line to make his Connacht debut after recovering from a long-term back injury.
 
Commenting on the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“This is a must-win for us given results of the last few weeks. While our home form has been disappointing we’ve had honest reviews of what’s gone wrong and the reaction in training has been good. Our away form has been a positive for us this season, so we’ll look to keep that going tomorrow albeit against tough opposition and a tough place to go in Rodney Parade.”
 
Regarding his team selection Friend added:
“We’ve a number of players earning significant caps tomorrow so I’d like to congratulate Finlay, Jack, Gavin and Paul on the milestones. We’ve also got Oisin Dowling in line for his first appearance which has been long overdue after his back injury, and that’s a testament to him and the medical department. Overall we’ve a pretty healthy squad which is a boost heading into a key part of the season.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS DRAGONS RUGBY
Friday 5th February, Rodney Parade, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (30)
14. Peter Sullivan (8)
13. Tom Daly (37)
12. Peter Robb (46)
11. Matt Healy (143)
10. Jack Carty (149)
9. Caolin Blade (121)
1. Denis Buckley (191)
2. Shane Delahunt (89)
3. Finlay Bealham (149)
4. Niall Murray (9)
5. Gavin Thornbury (49)
6. Paul Boyle (49) (C)
7. Conor Oliver (13)
8. Abraham Papali’i (5)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (11)
17. Jordan Duggan (6)
18. Jack Aungier (9)
19. Oisin Dowling *
20. Eoghan Masterson (101)
21. Kieran Marmion (175)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (2)
23. Alex Wootton (12)
 
NOTE: All Connacht Pro players and management returned negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing.

PRO14 Rugby have announced that due to a number of COVID-19 cases within the Dragons, tomorrow evening’s fixture between Dragons and Connacht has been postponed.

 

This decision was made after the WRU and Dragons Rugby, in conjunction with Public Health Wales and the PRO14 Medical Advisory Group, decided to close the Region for a fortnight with no training or games taking place during this time.

 

As a result, tomorrow’s game will now not take place as planned and PRO14 Rugby will examine potential dates in early 2021 to reschedule the game. Everyone at Connacht Rugby wishes the Dragons well and we look forward to meeting them later in the season.

 

All Connacht pro players and staff tested negative this week and will now begin preparations for Saturday week’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Scarlets at The Sportsground.

Tries from Thornbury, Healy, Bealham, Gallagher & Marmion gave Connacht back-to-back bonus point wins in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night.
 
Here’s all the highlights from the win over the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
 

Connacht responded to an early setback to score 38 unanswered points in an impressive bonus point win away to Dragons at Rodney Parade.
 
Tries from Gavin Thornbury, Matt Healy, Finlay Bealham, Cillian Gallagher and Kieran Marmion secured a victory which has given the side back to back 5 pointers and top spot in Guinness PRO14 Conference B after three games.
 
Connacht underwent a challenging opening 20 minutes, with the hosts almost in for the opening try before it was ruled out by the TMO, and then moments later Tiernan O’Halloran went off injured defending his own try-line. The pressure eventually told on 19 minutes when Tyler Morgan spotted a gap to touch down for the opening try.
 
That concession seemed to revitalise Connacht with a dominant 2nd quarter where they notched up 17 points. The first of those came from a Gavin Thornbury try, with the second row powering over a number of phases after a 5 metre lineout. Conor Fitzgerald slotted the extras and then added a penalty moments later to give the visitors a 10-7 lead.
 
The best play of the half came just after the half hour mark, with the Connacht backs moving the ball wide to Matt Healy who produced a brilliant chip-chase on the far side to gather the ball metres from the try line and then showed enough strength to score his first try of the season.
 
Connacht couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half. Moments after John Porch returned to the field from a sin-binning, a penalty came their way for a high challenge in the middle of the field. After Fitzgerald kicked for the corner, the lineout maul did its job and Finlay Bealham made it try number three.
 
Andy Friend’s side knocked down the door for the vast majority of the second half as they went in search of the bonus point, and the crucial score eventually came 8 minutes from time through Cillian Gallagher, again after powerful work from the pack.
 
Replacement scrum-half Kieran Marmion then put gloss on the scoreboard with his second try in as many games, with man-of-the-match Conor Fitzgerald adding the extras for his 13th point with a 100% success rate.
 
The hosts managed to get their second of the game past the 80th minute, but the win had been long since secured.
 
Next up for Connacht is a one week break before the visit of high-flying Cheetahs to The Sportsground on Saturday 26th October – an early meeting of the two Conference leaders.
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V DRAGONS
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade
(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.

John Porch is set for his first competitive start for Connacht after he was named in the starting 15 for Friday Night’s Guinness PRO14 tie with the Dragons at Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm).
 
The inclusion of the Australian winger is the only change from the side that defeated Benetton last weekend, with the Connacht side running in 6 tries in the 41-5 win.
 
Porch plays in a back three that includes winger Matt Healy and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, while Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin are selected at midfield.
 
Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald, who both impressed last time out, continue their half-back partnership at scrum-half and out-half respectively.
 
The front five is unchanged for the third straight game, with hooker Tom McCartney alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham, and a second-row combination of Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux.
 
Captain Jarrad Butler continues at openside, with Eoghan Masterson at blindside and Paul Boyle at number 8.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says it’s important to build on the performance at The Sportsground last Saturday:
 
“I was really pleased with the performance last weekend, so with a 6-day turnaround we’ve selected much the same squad to keep the momentum going. We’ve handed John Porch his first start after his competitive debut last weekend, and Cillian Gallagher is among the replacements after some good performances for the Connacht Eagles, so we are continuing to build the depth required for a long season.”
 
Speaking ahead of the trip to Wales, the Head Coach says:
 
“Rodney Parade is a tough place to go and with the Dragons playing a more expansive game this season we know our defence has to be on top form, but we also need to be clinical in attack when opportunities arise. This is our last game in this block before a short break so we’re aiming to finish on a high before our run of 13 weeks of games.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V DRAGONS (FRI 11 OCT, 7.35PM @ RODNEY PARADE)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade
(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.

The Connacht medical team have issued the following update on the squad ahead of the game against The Dragons in Rodney Parade on Friday at 7.30pm.

 

Update on returning players:

Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Caolin Blade and Tiernan O’Halloran all returned to play against the Kings with no ill effects from their recent injuries.

 

Lock:

Andrew Browne is rehabilitating from an achilles tendon injury and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

 

Back Row:

Naulia Dawai will integrate into team training this week as he steps up his recovery from a recent hamstring injury.

 

Sean O’Brien injured his shoulder in the Kings game and will see a specialist this week to determine the extent of the injury.

 

Scrum-half:

James Mitchell is continuing his recovery from a shoulder injury.

 

Centre:

Peter Robb is recovering from hip surgery last week and will be out of action until December.

 

Back Three:

Niyi Adeolokun is continuing his recovery from knee surgery under the supervision of the medical and fitness teams.

 

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