Connacht’s home Guinness PRO14 tie with Ospreys has been rescheduled for Sunday 24th January (k/o 3pm).

The game was due to be played on the weekend of the 13th February, but due to the postponement of the Heineken Champions Cup pool games, it has been brought forward given the availability in the calendar.

There will be live coverage on TG4 and Premier Sports with deferred coverage on eir Sport.

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)

Ben O’Donnell is in line to make his Connacht debut in tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 interpro with Leinster at the RDS Arena (k/o 7.35pm).

The former World Sevens Player of the Year nominee joined the province last summer but has been forced to wait for his first appearance after recovering from a serious knee injury.

The back three player is named among the replacements and there are five changes to the starting XV that lined out against Ulster last weekend.

Dominic Robertson-McCoy comes into the front row alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt, while Gavin Thornbury returns in the second row beside Quinn Roux who is named as captain.

The back row features both Masterson brothers, with Sean at number 8 and Eoghan at blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver completes the pack from the opposite flank.

Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue to partner-up at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold at centre. The final change comes in the back three with Peter Sullivan starting on the wing, with Alex Wootton and John Porch completing the side.

Connacht Rugby can confirm a number of players tested positive for COVID-19 this week. This follows the weekly round of PCR testing, and separate tests conducted at the start of the week after a small number of players presented minor symptoms. These players along with a number of others identified as close contacts are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidelines.
In total 68 Connacht players and staff tested negative this week and, following full engagement with public health authorities and PRO14 Rugby, they are satisfied the game can proceed as scheduled.

Commenting on his selected team, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“While we have had to deal with a few cases in the squad this week, we have still been able to name a strong team thanks to the depth we have been building these past few months. It’s also really pleasing to be able to include Ben O’Donnell in our 23 for the first time.
Even though there’s a lot of frustration about our last few results, the overall mood in the squad is good. We can’t wait to head to Dublin and test ourselves against what’s clearly a very strong Leinster side.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS LEINSTER RUGBY
Saturday 2nd January, RDS Arena, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (27)
14. Peter Sullivan (5)
13. Sammy Arnold (10)
12. Tom Daly (34)
11. Alex Wootton (9)
10. Jack Carty (147)
9. Caolin Blade (118)
1. Denis Buckley (188)
2. Shane Delahunt (86)
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (58)
4. Gavin Thornbury (46)
5. Quinn Roux (104) (C)
6. Eoghan Masterson (100)
7. Conor Oliver (10)
8. Sean Masterson (7)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (10)
17. Matthew Burke (16)
18. Conor Kenny (8)
19. Ultan Dillane (104)
20. Cian Prendergast (4)
21. Kieran Marmion (173)
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (1)
23. Ben O’Donnell *

Eoghan Masterson will become the latest Connacht centurion tomorrow after he was named in the starting XV to face Ulster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
 
Masterson made his Connacht debut during the 2013/14 season after representing both the Ireland and Scotland U20s. In recent weeks he has deputised in the second row but will return to his favoured back-row position for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 clash.
 
He’s named at blindside flanker with Conor Oliver on the opposite flank and captain Jarrad Butler returning to the starting side in the number 8 position.
 
Butler’s inclusion is one of 6 changes to the side that lost out to Bristol last weekend, with Shane Delahunt, Quinn Roux, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly and Tiernan O’Halloran also coming into the starting XV.
 
Delahunt lines out in a front row with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, while Roux returns from a two-week absence to partner Ultan Dillane. Blade and Fitzgerald form a new half-back partnership with the in-form Daly comes in at inside centre alongside Sammy Arnold. John Porch moves to the wing with O’Halloran starting at full-back and Matt Healy on the opposite wing.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Reaching 100 caps for any club is a huge achievement so I’d like to congratulate Eoghan Masterson on the milestone. Eoghan is a very professional athlete who leads from the front by the way he conducts himself both on and off the field. To hit 100 games despite his injury setbacks down the years only adds to the achievement.
 
Building squad depth has been a key objective for us, so we are fortunate to be able to make most of these changes not because of injuries but to keep the squad fresh and give players their deserved opportunities.”
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
 
“No doubt Ulster will be disappointed with their European results, but their PRO14 form this season speaks for itself. Both sets of players and coaches know each other well at this stage so it’s all about sticking to our systems and taking our chances when they come.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Sunday 27th December, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (186)
14. John Porch (26)
13. Sammy Arnold (9)
12. Tom Daly (33)
11. Matt Healy (141)
10. Jack Carty (146)
9. Caolin Blade (117)
1. Denis Buckley (187)
2. Shane Delahunt (85)
3. Finlay Bealham (146)
4. Ultan Dillane (103)
5. Quinn Roux (103)
6. Eoghan Masterson (99)
7. Conor Oliver (9)
8. Jarrad Butler (64) (C)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (134)
17. Jordan Duggan (5)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (57)
19. Gavin Thornbury (45)
20. Sean Masterson (7)
21. Kieran Marmion (172)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (1)
23. Colm de Buitléar (6)

The current Guinness PRO14 campaign will end in March allowing South Africa’s four ‘Super’ teams and our existing clubs to finish the season with a 16-team “Rainbow Cup” competition ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour. 

After consulting with key PRO14 stakeholders, the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup was chosen as the best pathway to finish up the current campaign and introduce South Africa’s four ‘Super’ teams: the Vodacom Bulls; Emirates Lions; Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers. This decision also allows our European-based sides to earn qualification for European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) tournaments in 2021/22 in a fair and equitable manner.

Ahead of the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will provide a ground-breaking spectacle for fans who will see international star players from north and south establish new rivalries in their bid for the ultimate Test selection.

Right through until the last kick of the ball in the Rainbow Cup in June, fans will be able to watch it all unfold with our broadcast partners Premier Sports, eir Sport, S4C, TG4, DAZN and Super Sport.

How it will Work

  • The 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 campaign will finish after 16 rounds with the Conference winners facing each other in a final in late March
  • Qualification for EPCR tournaments in 2021/22 will be decided by rankings after Round 16
  • On April 17, 2021, the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will kick-off and introduce the Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers and their World Cup-winning Springboks
  • The Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will consist of a pool stage (two pools of eight teams) and a final between the two pool winners

Final Chapter of Guinness PRO14

Rounds 12 to 16 will take place from February 20 and conclude on March 20. A final will then take place at the home venue of the highest-ranked team. This abbreviated fixture list will aim to ensure home and away in-conference fixtures are completed and each team plays all of its cross-conference matches also. Further clarification will be available when fixtures are confirmed.

The scheduled dates for the conclusion of the 2020-21 Guinness PRO14 campaign are:

R12: February 20

R13: February 27

R14: March 6

R15: March 13

R16: March 20

Final: March 27

Once Round 16 has been completed, the top-ranked teams from each conference will qualify for the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup. Requirement for play-offs is under review.

Guinness PRO14 “Rainbow Cup” – Forging New Rivalries

With South Africa preparing to host their first British & Irish Lions tour since 2009, the World Cup champions will see their ‘Super’ teams – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers take on the very best that Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales have to offer.

Players aiming to make the British & Irish Lions squad will find no better trial environment to test themselves in, as they go up against the likes of Siya Kolisi, Pieter Steph du Toit (both  DHL Stormers), Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls), Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions) and former Guinness PRO14 top-try scorer Makazole Mapimipi (Cell C Sharks).

The Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will kick off on April 17 with two pools of 8 teams made up of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian and one Scottish club. Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a final on June 19.

Across 57 matches, the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will feature the best of the Springbok talent going toe-to-toe with some of the British & Irish Lions’ biggest names – every one of them keen to lay down a marker to their respective selectors ahead of what will prove to an historic tour.

CEO Statements from Martin Anayi and Jurie Roux

Martin Anayi, CEO, PRO14 Rugby: “At a time where our sport has faced its greatest challenge, we have promising news about an innovative solution to partner with South African rugby ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour.

“It was vital that we worked with all parties to ensure our 12 teams had a clear road towards European qualification. With a Lions tour in South Africa to come it is hard to think of anything better to whet the appetite than the best players from the Celtic regions competing against World Cup-winning Springboks in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup.”

Jurie Roux, CEO, SA Rugby: “The inclusion of South Africa’s ‘Super’ Teams in the Rainbow Cup is a once-in-a-generation, watershed moment for South African rugby. After so much turmoil and uncertainty in 2020, the prospect of a return to top-flight international domestic competition is one to which we all can all look forward with real excitement.”

ENDS

Andy Friend has named his side to face Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow night, with the Head Coach making just one change to the team that was originally due to play Ospreys last week.
 
That game was postponed due to a COVID-19 case in the Welsh club, and the management have opted to stick with most of that same matchday 23, with some players looking to pick up some game time before a hectic period of Heineken Champions Cup and Christmas interpros.
 
The one change is at scrum-half where Caolin Blade has recovered from a recent hamstring injury to start his first game since late October, with Colm Reilly named among the replacements.
 
Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.
 
Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.
 
Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.
 
Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week. In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”
 
Regarding this week’s game, Friend added:
 
“Home games in the PRO14 are where we need to build up our points tally and tomorrow will be no different. It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Friday 4th December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)
 
NOTE: All players and management produced negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing.

The Round 8 Guinness PRO14 fixture between Connacht and Ospreys has been postponed.
 
The game was due to take place on Saturday, November 28 in Galway, however, one Ospreys player has returned a positive case of Covid-19 and others identified as close contacts are now isolating. Having considered all the available evidence, the PRO14 Rugby Medical Advisory Group has deemed that this fixture cannot go ahead.
 
Benetton Rugby, who played against Ospreys on Sunday, carried out routine squad testing this week and returned negative results all round.
 
PRO14 Rugby will examine potential dates in early 2021 to reschedule the game.
 
Everyone at Connacht wishes the Ospreys player a speedy recovery and we look forward to welcoming them to The Sportsground early next year.

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.

The Round 4 Guinness PRO14 fixture between Connacht Rugby and Benetton Rugby has been postponed.
 
The game was due to take place on Sunday, November 1 in Galway, however, Benetton will not be able to travel due to a small number of isolated positive cases of Covid-19. Public health guidelines in Italy currently prevent the Benetton squad from resuming rugby activities and as a result the fixture cannot take place as planned.
 
PRO14 Rugby can also confirm that Scarlets, who Benetton played in Round 3, have returned negative results from their PCR testing this week.
 
PRO14 Rugby will examine potential dates in early 2021 to reschedule the game.

Andy Friend has named his squad for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 season opener against the Glasgow Warriors, with Jarrad Butler leading out the side from blindside flanker.
 
Butler begins his third season as Connacht captain having joined in 2017, and he starts in the number 6 position with Conor Oliver earning a start at openside after an impressive pre-season campaign. Paul Boyle completes the back row at number 8.
 
There’s an experienced look to the front row with Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham all named, while Gavin Thornbury and Quinn make up the rest of the pack in the second row.
 
Friend has named the same backline that put in a brilliant attacking display against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, with Irish international trio Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty and Bundee Aki forming the 9-10-12 axis.
 
Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre, while John Porch continues at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.
 
200 spectators will be in attendance at The Sportsground – including previous season ticket holders – in what will be the first Guinness PRO14 game at The Sportsground in over seven months.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“There’s no hiding the fact that last weekend’s Eagles game was very disappointing and we’re keen to quickly move on from it. That said, the spirit and energy at training has been really positive all week and there’s always a sense of excitement when you start a new season. If this squad can produce what I know they’re capable of, I know we’ve a great chance of picking up a win.”
 
Regarding the fixture itself, Friend added:
 
“It’s always vital you pick up home wins in this competition and Saturday will be no different. We’re coming up against a very strong Glasgow outfit and our recent record against them isn’t great, but our aim in these opening two weeks is two victories and I firmly believe we can achieve that and start the season on a high”.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY SQUAD V GLASGOW WARRIORS
Saturday 3rd October @ The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm)

Number, Name, Caps
15. John Porch (18)
14. Peter Sullivan (1)
13. Tom Farrell (58)
12. Bundee Aki (101)
11. Alex Wootton (1)
10. Jack Carty (140)
9. Kieran Marmion (167)
1. Denis Buckley (179)
2. Dave Heffernan (130)
3. Finlay Bealham (142)
4. Gavin Thornbury (39)
5. Quinn Roux (101)
6. Jarrad Butler (56) CAPTAIN
7. Conor Oliver (2)
8. Paul Boyle (40)

16. Jonny Murphy (7)
17. Jordan Duggan (1)
18. Jack Aungier (1)
19. Niall Murray (7)
20. Seán Masterson (3)
21. Caolin Blade (112)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (24)
23. Sammy Arnold (1)

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