Connacht are back home this Saturday for Round 9 of the BKT United Rugby Championship as Benetton come to The Sportsground, k/o 3.15pm.

A big game for both sides and one Connacht will be aiming to win after the disappointment of last weekend’s defeat in Limerick.

Speaking ahead of the game was Finlay Bealham who felt frustrated leaving Thomond Park on Saturday night.

“We had a few tough words earlier in the week regards Saturday’s game in Thomond Park”

“Lads got things off their chest with some honest conversations that were needed to be honest”

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot particularly with our discipline and that needs to improve so much”

While frustrated with the result and how a few things went, the Connacht forwards once again put in a powerful display.

“We got a good few penalties and speaking to Denis Buckley and the rest of the lads after we were happy with things like the scrum and so on”

“Yeah we have to be hard on ourselves and look and where we can improve but at the same time you have to see what you’re doing right and doing well”

“We did a lot of good stuff on Saturday but we need to clean up our whole game as bits and parts to a game just aren’t enough”

The Irish international has been in the form of his life this season and is enjoying every minute of it.

“I feel with age I’ve got a better experience on how to prepare myself for games”

“I’m still striving to improve my game and bring the lads around me to a better level”

“I just feel a lot more in control with what I’m doing and that comes from preparation”

This Saturday Benetton will bring a physical challenge up front which Finlay is looking forward to.

“They’ve got international forwards so we’re coming up against top players here”

“Italian rugby is on the up which is great for the game and you can see Benetton are a big part of that”

“They’ve been going well this season so we know if we aren’t at it from the first minute we could be in for a tough day”

“As a group we’re extremely confident coming into this game and having the home support just adds to that”

“It’s been over a month I think since we last played at home so it will be good to be back and hopefully put on the show we know we can deliver”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available HERE

The Ireland coaching team have named a 37-man squad for the upcoming Bank of Ireland Nations Series fixtures against world champions South Africa, Fiji and Australia at Aviva Stadium.An additional panel of players has been named for the Ireland ‘A’ fixture against the All Blacks XV which takes place in the RDS on Friday 4th November.Ireland will play the Springboks for the first time in six years when Jacques Nienaber’s World Cup-winning side return to Aviva Stadium on Saturday 5th November (Kick-off 5.30pm).Fiji also return to Dublin for the first time since 2017 on Saturday 12th November (Kick-off 1pm), while Ireland’s final game of the Series is against Australia on Saturday 19th November (Kick-off 8pm). Ireland last faced the Wallabies in the summer of 2018 where they secured a famous series victory.The Ireland squad will be captained byJohnny Sexton and there are six uncapped players in the squad: Ciaran Frawley, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy, Calvin Nash, Jimmy O’Brienand Cian Prendergast.Frawley, Loughman, McCarthy, O’Brien and Prendergast featured for the Ireland XV that played against the Maori All Blacks during the Summer Tour of New Zealand.Prendergast, McCarthy, Robert Baloucoune and Calvin Nash were also part of the Emerging Ireland squad that played against the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs in Bloemfontein earlier this month.The Ireland ‘A’ panel includes Tom Ahern, Diarmuid Barron, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly, Max Deegan, Jamie Osborne, Scott Penny and Roman Salanoa from the Emerging Ireland squad as well as experienced front-row forwards Dave Kilcoyne and Marty Moore.  Players in the A Panel will join the squad following Round 7 of the URC.Ireland ‘A’ take on a strong All Black XV squad on the 4th November in the RDS (Kick-off 7.45pm – tickets on General Sale via Ticketmaster.ie from Saturday 22nd October at 10am). The All Black XV squad features experienced Test players such as Damian McKenzie, TJ Perenara and Patrick Tuipulotu.There are limited tickets available for Ireland v Fiji at Aviva Stadium here.Ireland Squad – Bank of Ireland Nations Series 2022:Backs (16)Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 capsJoey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 35 capsCraig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 capsCiaran Frawley (Leinster/Skerries) uncappedJamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 20 capsMack Hansen (Connacht) 6 capsRobbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 60 capsHugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 23 capsMichael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 capConor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 99 capsStuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 6 capsCalvin Nash (Munster/Young Munster) uncappedJimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) uncappedGarry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 44 capsJohnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 108 caps CAPTAINJacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 capsForwards (21)Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 capsFinlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 25 capsTadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 33 capsJack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 30 capsGavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 capsCaelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 20 capsTadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 60 capsDave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 7 capsCian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 118 capsRob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 28 capsJeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncappedJoe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncappedPeter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 87 capsTom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 3 capsAndrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 46 capsCian Prendergast (Connacht) uncappedJames Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 46 capsDan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 capsNick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 capsKieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 8 capsJosh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 43 capsIreland ‘A’ Panel:Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) 1 capJack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 capsMax Deegan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 1 capJames Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 capsDave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 48 capsMarty Moore (Ulster) 10 capsJamie Osbourne (Leinster/Naas)Scott Penny (Leinster/UCD)Roman Salanoa (Munster/Shannon)Bank of Ireland – Title Sponsor of Nations Series:The IRFU have secured Bank of Ireland as the title sponsor for Ireland’s Nations Series fixtures against South Africa, Fiji and Australia in November 2022 and the pre-World Cup fixtures in August 2023 at the Aviva Stadium against Italy (August 5th) and England (August 19th). Bank of Ireland are a long-time supporter of Irish Rugby and have sponsor partnerships with all four provinces supporting both the professional and domestic game.Kevin Potts, IRFU CEO, commented, “Bank of Ireland have built a strong connection to Irish rugby through their investment in our game over the past 20 years. Their provincial sponsorships are hugely beneficial not just to the professional game, but to the continued development of provincial club competitions and female representative teams. The arrival of the World Champions South Africa to the Aviva Stadium is a great fixture to cement this new partnership.”Speaking on the new sponsorship, Gavin Kelly, Interim CEO, Bank of Ireland said: “Bank of Ireland is a proud supporter of rugby in Ireland through our sponsorship of Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster Rugby. Today, we are delighted to further strengthen our involvement as title sponsor of the Bank of Ireland Nations Series. This new partnership with the IRFU underlines our long-term commitment to Irish rugby which is founded on the success of the provincial game and the extraordinary commitment of the players. We share the excitement of rugby fans across Ireland as we look forward to a really exciting set of matches in November against some of the world’s best teams – South Africa, Fiji, and Australia.”Bank of Ireland Nations Series and Ireland ‘A’ Fixtures:       IRELAND ‘A’ v All Blacks XVFriday 4th November, 2022, RDS, KO 19:45IRELAND v South AfricaSaturday 5th November, 2022, Aviva Stadium, KO 17:30IRELAND v FijiSaturday 12th November, 2022, Aviva Stadium, KO 13:00IRELAND v AustraliaSaturday 19th November, 2022, Aviva Stadium, KO 20:00

An unbelievable win at The Sportsground last night saw Connacht get their first win of the season against Munster in the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Tries from Mack Hansen, Finlay Bealham and Paul Boyle saw Andy Friend’s side win 20-11 in front of a packed house where the atmosphere was as expected incredible.

Speaking after full time to the media was player of the match Finlay Bealham.

“We knew tonight we were going to produce that performance”

“Yeah parts of the game didn’t go great and we have things to work on but we needed this win to get us up and running”

“Really proud of the lads in that dressing room tonight”

The Connacht set pieces played a major role in helping the side to victory. Control in the scrum and disrupting Munster line-outs gave the men in green great platforms to start attacks.

“We came to the game aiming at the set pieces knowing we could do well there”

“Dewald and Cullie had us in great shape coming into this and no stone was left unturned”

“They put the faith in us and let us go out to do what we could”

After a poor start in the opening three rounds this win was needed so what changed coming into it?

“Nothing has changed coming into this game” said Bealham

“We just weren’t good enough by our standard in those other three games but we knew the work we done in the preseason and during the week that it would click”

“Not everyone sees the work that’s put in behind the scenes, I can tell you there is massive work put in and we have huge faith in what we’re doing here”

Next week attention turns to another massive interpro as Connacht welcome Leinster to The Sportsground where tickets can be got HERE .

“Our attention turns to Leinster now, great win tonight but this has to be the start of season now”

“We’re buzzing tonight and can enjoy it, relax for the weekend but come Monday there is only one thing on our mind”

A new chapter begins this week for Connacht Rugby with the first ever game being played on the new artificial playing surface at The Sportsground. A massive Interprovincial-derby against Munster to kick it all off this Friday in the BKT United Rugby Championship, (k/o 7.35pm).

While the opening three rounds of the new season have been tough, confidence in the camp is high and the excitment grows as we get closer to kick-off.

After arriving back from South Africa on Sunday, Tuesday was the first chance the players got to test out the new surface. Speaking to the media ahead of the game with Munster, Finlay Bealham gave his thoughts on the new pitch.

“We got a feel of it today and we’re really excited by it”

“Walking on the pitch for the first time everyone was buzzing”

“It looks incredible as well”

“I can’t wait and I know the rest of the lads can’t wait to get out on it Friday”

This Connacht team is one which likes to play quick attacking rugby so the new pitch should definitely suit the game they are looking for.

“I’m sure everyone knows that we get a lot of rain and wind around here so the pitch can take a bit of a beaten by the time Novembers comes around, but now with this new pitch we can play our brand of rugby all year round which is great”

“We have great footballers in the squad, real natural footballers as well I’d say so we can’t wait to get more hands on the ball and play at the pace we want”

As much as the focus will be on the new artificial playing surface coming into the game, for the squad all eyes are on Munster and the job in hand.

“An interpro and first home game of the season, there’s not much more motivation needed than that to get the blood pumping”

“We always love playing Munster because we know this is a battle, we know the physicality they will bring so we will need to meet fire with fire”

“These are the games you want to play in”

Interprovincial-derby’s are always special occasions, every game supporters play such an important role but when you come up against provincial neighbours the noise from the stands and terraces seem to reach different levels, levels Finlay expects to hear again this Friday.

“We have the best fans in the world”

“Win, lose or draw they are always there and they know the hard work we put in”

“For the size of the stadium, sometimes it does feel like we are playing in front of 50000 because of the noise our fans make”

“We get some amount of energy from the support, not to have the home support for the last three weeks in-a-row have been felt but we can’t wait for Friday”

Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell has made one change to the team who won in Dunedin last week ahead of the Series decider against New Zealand at the Sky Stadium in Wellington (Kick-off 7.05pm NZ time/8.05am Irish time).

Bundee Aki comes in for the injured Garry Ringrose and partners Robbie Henshaw in midfield. Johnny Sexton, who celebrated his 37th birthday this week, leads the team as he wins his 108th cap, equalling Paul O’Connell’s tally for Ireland.

Sexton will be partnered by Jamison Gibson-Park in the half-backs with the back three of Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe retained.

The pack from the first two Tests lines out again in the final game of the tour with Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlongin the front row and Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan at lock. Peter O’Mahony is at six, Josh van der Flier at seven and Caelan Doris is named at No.8.

The replacements include Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Keith Earls.

The third Test against New Zealand will be broadcast live on SKY and RTE Radio.

IRELAND v New Zealand
SKY Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 16th July, 2022
KO: 8.05am Irish Time

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 22 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 5 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 59 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 39 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 14 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 107 caps CAPTAIN
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 19 caps

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 45 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 9 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 59 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 32 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 45 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 86 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 42 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 19 caps

Replacements
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 27 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 117 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 24 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 7 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 29 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 98 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 34 caps
23. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 97 caps

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made one change to the starting line-up for the second Test against New Zealand which takes place on Saturday at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

Mack Hansen is introduced on the right wing to play alongside James Lowe and Hugo Keenan in the backfield.

Captain Johnny Sexton will again be partnered by Jamison Gibson Park at half-back while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose continue their centre partnership.

The pack is unchanged from the first Test in Auckland with Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong in the front row and Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan at lock.  Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris are named in the backrow.

Rob Herring and Finlay Bealham, who were ruled out of the first Test, return to be named amongst the replacements alongside Cian Healy, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Bundee Aki.

The second Test against New Zealand will be broadcast live on SKY and RTE Radio. (8.05am IST)

IRELAND v New Zealand
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday 9th July, 2022
KO: 8.05am Irish Time

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 21 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 58 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 13 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 106 caps CAPTAIN
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 18 caps

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 44 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 58 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 31 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 44 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 85 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 18 caps

Replacements
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 26 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 116 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 23 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 6 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 28 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 97 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 33 caps
23. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 38 caps

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