By John O’Sullivan 


Head coach Andy Friend says that dominance in tackles and making the most of attacking opportunities will be key for Connacht in Saturday’s 7:35 PM kick off Guinness PRO14 interprovincial clash away to Leinster. 


After a 32-19 reversal at home to Ulster last time out, the Westerners will look to make amends against the defending champions in the second of the Christmas interprovincials.


Friend said that Connacht’s 33-29 defeat to the eastern province in December 2018 — a game in which the Sportsground men lead 29-12 with 11 minutes remaining — gives his squad belief that they can compete with, and defeat, Leinster. 


Executing the basics of the game well, in a manner similar to their interprovincial rivals, is, according to the Canberra native, will be the bedrock of any Connacht win in Dublin.


“First and foremost, you have to try and get your tackle right,” the Australian said of Connacht’s defensive approach for the game in the Irish capital. 


“You have to make sure that when you go in to tackle that your body is in the right position and that you are trying to make the most dominant tackle you can. That’s where they get their nose through just slightly and then they’re off. 


“That’s no big secret, there’s nothing special to that. Just with every tackle you make, get yourself in the best position to make the most dominant tackle you can. 


“Secondly, from an attack point of view, we are going to try a couple of things a little different,” the former Australia Sevens coach said of the Westerners attacking strategy for the derby at the RDS. 


“We need to be adaptable, but at the same time, we need to make sure that when those key opportunities and moments come that we’re good enough to take them because you’re not going to get many against Leinster. I don’t see it as a magic formula. They’re(Leinster) very good at doing the basics really well and they tend to do them better than every team they play. 


“So, it’s for the teams that can rock up there with a gameplan — which we will have — but also it’s about being as brilliant  at the basics as we can and putting ourselves in the best position to win it.”


Meanwhile, captain Jarrad Butler says that Connacht will need to bring an 80-minute performance against the unbeaten Leinster to earn a win on Saturday. 


Referencing the December 2018 defeat away to Leinster — where the Sportsground team were in front as late as the 69th minute — Butler is confident the western province can cause Leo Cullen’s team issues but they cannot afford to play in fits and starts and must be consistent across the game as a whole. 


“They’re an extremely good team and anything less than an 80-minute performance and you’re not going to be able to beat Leinster. We’ve seen it before. We’ve been over there and played 69 minutes of good footy and not come away with a win,” the Australian said. 


“And against Ulster, we played well for 40 minutes. It’s about consistency, it’s about taking the game to Leinster. They are a very good team when they have things on their terms and if you’re going to let them play and just try and counter everything then you’re going to have a hard day at the office. 


“Going up there and playing with confidence is going to be really important. Playing on top of them and trying to be aggressive because — like I said — you see so many teams go up there and try and weather the storm, but it’s an 80-minute storm if you let it be.”


Despite three consecutive defeats in two competitions for Connacht, the 29-year-old says that he — as well as the other squad members — expect a bounce back and to bring an increased level of aggression and energy for a game that will require no extra motivation.


Being proactive in attack and looking to make things happen, as opposed to just attempting to shackle Leinster, is an approach Butler says Connacht will take and he is confident that they can successfully pull it off. 


“You got to go there and throw caution to the wind and try things because you know that you can’t play conservative. You have to go for it and try things. We’ve lost the last three weeks in a row, so I expect — and so the group as a whole — us to bounce back and bring some energy. If you can’t get up for an Interpro versus Leinster then what can you get up for?”

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”.
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)

The Connacht management team have named their squad of Eagles players for tomorrow’s return friendly fixture against Munster ‘A’ at Thomond Park (k/o 3pm).
Jarrad Butler captains a strong squad eager to get some game-time ahead of next week’s Guinness PRO14 season opener against Glasgow Warriors at The Sportsground.
14 players are among the replacements, three of whom – Sean O’Brien, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Oran McNulty – are currently training with the Connacht Academy.
The game will be streamed live on
15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Farrell
12. Tom Daly
11. John Porch
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Paddy McAllister
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler (c)
8. Paul Boyle
16. Denis Buckley
17. Jonny Murphy
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
19. Niall Murray
20. Quinn Roux
21. Conor Oliver
22. Sean Masterson
23. Caolin Blade
24. Conor Fitzgerald
25. Sammy Arnold
26. Sean O’Brien (Acad)
27. Colm de Buitléar
28. Diarmuid Kilgallen
29. Oran McNulty

Connacht head coach Andy Friend has recalled a host of Irish internationals for tomorrow’s crucial Heineken Champions Cup clash with Toulouse at the Sportsground (k/o 3.15pm).
Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are named at out-half and outside-centre respectively after sitting out the last two weeks, while there are also returns to the starting team for fellow internationals Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy.
There’s further good news in the back-row where Jarrad Butler and Colby Fainga’a have both recovered from injury, with Butler captaining the side at number 8 and Fainga’a joined by Paul Boyle on the flanks.
Ultan Dillane will be partnered by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, while Paddy McAllister and Tom McCartney join Bealham in the front row to complete the pack.
Scrum-half Stephen Kerins is handed his first Champions Cup start, with Caolin Blade among the replacements having started the last nine games for Connacht.
Bundee Aki is partnered by Peter Robb in the centre, while Matt Healy is joined by winger Niyi Adeolokun and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran in the back three.
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Andy Friend says:

“It’s been a difficult Christmas period for everyone, but we’ve a lot of returning players which is exactly what we need. With our captain Jarrad Butler back in the side and players like Jack and Bundee returning from their break, I believe this is a squad full of quality and experience that can win this game.”
Regarding tomorrow’s opponents, Friend added:

“This game is exactly what we need. We’ve got a great opportunity to come up against the French champions and challenge them in our own backyard. We know it’s a must-win tie to keep our quarter-final hopes alive, and with our home crowd behind us I know the players will relish the occasion.”
15-9: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Stephen Kerins.
1-8: Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C).
Replacements: David Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, John Porch.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of a host of players ahead of the Champions Cup clash with Toulouse on Saturday (Kick off 3:15pm). Bundee Aki and Jack Carty are available for selection following a two week rest period, as is Ultan Dillane who was rested last week.

Finlay Bealham has returned to full training and is available for selection after completing his return to play protocols. He was involved in a collision in the game against Ulster.

In addition, Rory Burke (neck), Jarrad Butler (illness), Colby Fainga’a (knee), Matt Healy (thigh) and Peter Robb (head) are all reintegrating into training this week following their respective injuries.

The news is also very positive on Conor Fitzgerald following a scan on his ankle. He will return to full training next week. Peter McCabe (ankle) and Tom Farrell (shoulder) are progressing well with their injuries and they will also look to return to training next week.

Conor Kenny (head) sustained a head injury in the Leinster game and will follow graduated return to play protocols. Stephen Fitzgerald sustained a knee injury in the same game and is awaiting scan results to determine the extent of his injuries.

Meanwhile, Matthew Burke (thigh), Cillian Gallagher (shoulder), Darragh Leader (calf), Sean O’Brien (shoulder) and Quinn Roux (hand) remain on the medium to long term injured list.

Tickets for the clash with the French Top 14 Champions are available to purchase here.

Carty starts at full back as Connacht prepare for Champions Cup clash with Gloucester

Ireland international Jack Carty is set to start at full back for Connacht in their Heineken Champions Cup clash with Gloucester on Saturday (Kick off 12:45pm). Carty is part of a back three that includes Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch on the wings.

Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade also renew their half back partnership while Bundee Aki and Kyle Godwin start in midfield.

In the forwards, Captain Jarrad Butler will make his 50th appearance in a Connacht jersey. The openside is named in a backrow that includes the returning Eoin McKeon at blindside and Paul Boyle at number 8.

Having played all 80 minutes in his last three outings, lock Quinn Roux steps out so Ultan Dillane and Joe Maksymiw are named to start in the second row. 20 year old Academy player Niall Murray is included among the replacements for the first time.

In the front row Dave Heffernan comes back in at hooker with Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy at loosehead and tighthead respectively.

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “This is a must win game for us if we are to advance in the Champions Cup this season. We are expecting a big crowd in the Sportsground and we know how difficult it can be to beat us especially when we are at home”.

“We have made a number of changes from last weekend with some positional changes and some fresh legs coming in. We have learned a lot from the away defeat and we have picked a side that we feel can beat Gloucester on Saturday”.

Connacht Matchday Squad V Gloucester (Sat 14 Dec, 12:45pm)

(15-9): Jack Carty, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (1-8): Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Tom Daly, Robin Copeland.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of their captain Jarrad Butler to the starting team to face Gloucester in the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday in Kingsholm (Kick off 1pm).
Butler starts at number 8 having come off the bench last week following a knee injury. He joins a back row that includes Eoghan Masterson and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Elsewhere in the forwards, there is a highly experienced front row with hooker Tom McCartney and props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham. In the second row Joe Maksymiw starts alongside Quinn Roux.
Bundee Aki has a new partner in midfield with Peter Robb coming into the side, while a late injury to Matt Healy sees John Porch switching from the wing to full back. The former Australian Sevens player, who scored two tries last weekend, is part of a back three with Kyle Godwin and Niyi Adeolokun occupying the wings.
Jack Carty comes back in at out half where he renews his half back partnership with the impressive Caolin Blade.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “The back to back fixtures in this competition are always critical and the next two weeks against Gloucester will decide our Champions Cup season. Next week will be a huge occasion but first we have to get a result on Sunday. For now, we are solely focused on that away leg and we are travelling to Gloucester with the belief that we can win the game”.
“It is great to have Jarrad Butler back in the side. As our captain he has a massive influence on the group and his presence will be important for such a big occasion. We have also made a few positional changes to our side. Matt Healy picked up a knock in training so John Porch will slot in at full back and Kyle Godwin moves to the wing. We have used over forty players so far this season so we know the depth that we have and that will be tested again in the coming weeks.”
Connacht Matchday Squad V Gloucester (SUN 8 Dec, 1pm)

(15-9): John Porch, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, 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.”
(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.

The Connacht head coach and captain have said they can’t wait to get started on their European campaign for the season.
For the fifth time Connacht will compete in the Heineken Champions Cup, thanks to a quarter-final finish in last season’s Guinness PRO14.
Speaking at last week’s EPCR launch in Cardiff, head coach Andy Friend says the squad will be relishing the occasions which begin this weekend at home to Montpellier.
It’s a real opportunity for us. We haven’t been in there for a few years now. We earned the right to get in there this year from last year, with our quarter-final finish in the Pro14, so we’re with the big boys and looking forward to it.
It’s always great to have a French team travelling. Montpellier, we know the strength of them, they’re a quality side, they’re having a good season this year, but to welcome them to the Sportsground is going to be good for our fans.
Once we got in, people start sending in clips and comments about their greatest memories in a Champions Cup: beating Toulouse, beating Wasps, so they’re two special moments that Connacht fans certainly remember and, hopefully, we can give them a few other ones to remember this year.

Captain Jarrad Butler will be competing in the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time, and he’s equally looking forward to the opportunity of testing themselves against the best.
I’m really excited. To qualify for the Champions Cup is a reflection of the previous year and being able to perform at a high level. So, getting to play against some of the best teams in Europe, or the best teams in Europe, is an exciting prospect and I can’t wait.
There’s been a serious buzz, you know. I came from New Zealand and Australia, so I didn’t know much about the Champions Cup competition, but you talk to fans, you talk to players and, you know, some of their fondest memories are from playing in the Champions Cup. It’s beating your Toulouses at home, and the amount of fans that have already spoken about, you know, [how] they’ve booked their flights to Toulouse and Montpellier and things like that, you know. For me personally, it’s just cool to see.
Everyone talks so highly about it, you can’t help but just kind of get caught up in the buzz, I suppose. Hopefully we can make some more and I can have some good memories for myself in the coming weeks anyway.
Montpellier are such a big team, and to have them down at The Sportsground is an exciting prospect, I think, for the fans and for us as a playing group alike, and I’m looking forward to getting the campaign started in good fashion as well.

Connacht begin their Heineken Champions Cup campaign at home to Montpellier this Sunday at the Sportsground, and tickets are still available.

Connacht Captain Jarrad Butler has become the latest player to sign a contract extension with the province, taking him up to the end of the 2021/22 season.
He joined Connacht from the Brumbies ahead of the 2017/18 season and was voted the Connacht Rugby Players’ Player of the year in his first season at the Sportsground.
In 2018 he was appointed Captain of Connacht and the 28 year old has now begun his second season in the role.
Prior to his arrival at Connacht, Butler made 70 Super Rugby appearances during his time with the Brumbies and the Queensland Reds.
At international level he has played for Australia at Schoolboy, Under 19 and Under 20 level.
Speaking following his contract signing, Connacht Captain Jarrad Butler said: “I am delighted to commit my future to Connacht for a further two seasons. We have some real leaders within our squad, and I was hugely honoured to take over the role of captain last season. There is a real sense of ambition within the player group which extends right throughout the staff and supporters of the province. I am really looking forward to the seasons ahead in a Connacht jersey.”
Commenting on the contract extension, Head Coach Andy Friend added: “Jarrad has proven himself to be a hugely consistent and versatile player for Connacht. That consistency along with his unrelenting work rate are what make him an outstanding leader. He continues to improve and develop all aspects of his game. His contract extension is significant for us as we aim to deliver success to the province”.


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