Head coach Andy Friend is confident in Connacht’s preparation ahead of the Westerners’ inaugural United Rugby Championship fixture away to the Cardiff Rugby at 7:35 PM on Friday evening. 

 

Connacht reshuffled their coaching staff over the course of the pre-season, with Dewald Senekal joining the province as a forwards coach, while Collie Tucker and Mossie Lawler have both moved to the first team picture from the academy set up. Peter Wilkins, meanwhile, moved from defence coach to attack coach. 

 

Friend insists that the new coaches — most of whom have experience of working with the Westerners — will bring a fresh impetus that will prove beneficial as the new season starts and progresses. 

 

“Yeah, it’s a good feeling and it’s a fresh coaching group,” the Australian, who is going into his fourth season as head coach, said of Connacht’s pre-season preparations. 

 

“Pete(Wilkins) has been moved into that senior coaching role and he’s thriving in that. As you know, he’s done defence for four years here, but he felt he had done enough with the defence and wanted to get his hands onto the attack stuff and I was more than happy to accommodate him there. He has got great knowledge of the attack. He’s thriving in that position. 

 

“Collie Tucker and Mossie Lawler, having come through the pathway in our academy which is a nice seamless transition, have come in. Two younger coaches with a lot of energy and a lot of good thought. That’s adding good value. 

 

“Dewald(Senekal) coming from France, played a lot of Rugby in France and South Africa, has added some newness to our forward pack. Across the board, I think it’s been a pretty seamless transition. I suppose the results will tell us in the next few weeks, but I’m really happy with the way the first ten weeks have gone.”

 

Given the structure of the Rugby United tournament, Friend is eager for Connacht to start quickly with a win, but the former Australian Sevens coach is wary of the threat posed by Friday’s opponents in Wales. 

 

The head coach highlighted the Welshmen’s fitness, their fast style of rugby and their familiarity with their 4G pitch as their particular strengths.

 

Last season, the sides finished on a win apiece in their two meetings and the Australian is expecting a similarly tight contest at the Cardiff Arms Park. 

 

“We’ve been guilty in the last few years of maybe not getting the start we wanted, we’re very aware of that,” Friend said. 

 

“We’ve got Cardiff away, as we know, on Friday night. That’s going to be a really tough game. They’re a formidable outfit and they’re very hard to knock over over there. I think we’ve had two successes there in the last ten years, so it’s not an easy game. We’re all aware of that, but our intention is to start well and hopefully — if we’re at our best — it will be a really impressive win for us.”

 

Meanwhile, club captain Jarrad Butler says the players have enjoyed the pre-season schedule and working with the new coaches ahead of the season’s curtain-raiser. 

 

The back row, 30, says that there is an air of positive energy around the training camp and he is confident that it will stand the squad in good stead for the season ahead. 

 

“Even from the start of the pre-season, there was a lot of changes,” the Australian said. 

 

“But I think it’s been pretty refreshing for the group to have some new voices around the place, new drills, new energy. We’ve definitely gotten that from all the coaching staff. D(Dewald Senekal) has come in with a lot of energy and philosophies he’s had from coaching over in France. 

 

“Everyone knows Mossie and Collie, having come through the academy, but they were highly regarded, given the stuff they were with the academy, so there was a real eagerness for them to be involved and work on some of the things we felt we needed to work on, come the end of last season. It’s been good.”

 

With nine new players in the Connacht squad this season, including academy graduates moving to the senior team, the transition isn’t just off the pitch. 

 

Butler, though, says he enjoys the role of being the club captain and helping these new players — whether they are local or from overseas — to adjust to life with the Westerners. However, the former Brumbies back-row says the environment in Connacht allows for all players, whether young or old, to show their leadership credentials. 

 

“A lot of new guys have come into the setup and they have been integrated well. I think having a new coaching set up in there has made that transition a little bit easier because everyone has kind of been on the same page. 

 

“The last couple of years, we have been able to roll onto the following year. This year has been a real change of direction and a real change of style from the coaches, so it’s been new for everybody. 

 

“In saying that, we had a lot of guys who performed really well last year — you think of guys like Paul Boyle, who had a great year and got himself involved with the Irish squad — you think of guys like Tom Daly and Caolin Blade. 

 

“You’ve got these younger guys coming in and stepping up to leadership roles as well. It opens the door for them to have a voice. It opens the door for new guys to come in and have a voice as well and I think it works best for everybody.”

The Connacht management team have made five changes to their starting XV for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup interpro with Leinster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
Captain Jarrad Butler will make his first appearance in nearly 2 months following suspension and injury – he comes straight into the starting XV. Denis Buckley comes into the front row for his 198th appearance, while Niall Murray starts in the second row. Conor Fitzgerald starts at no.10 following an impressive cameo off the bench against Ulster, while the man who scored the match-winning try in that game, Peter Sullivan, is also handed a starting berth on the wing.
 
There’s also a 150th appearance for Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy who is named on the opposite wing.
Buckley lines up alongside Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while Gavin Thornbury completes the tight five. Butler starts at number 8 alongside flankers Eoghan Masterson and Conor Oliver.
 
Caolin Blade partners Conor Fitzgerald, while Tom Daly and Sean O’Brien play together at centre for the 5th straight game. With Healy and Sullivan on the wings, John Porch completes the side from full-back.
 
There’s also a welcome return among the replacements for Sammy Arnold, who hasn’t featured for four months since undergoing chest surgery.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We had a great win last time out in Belfast, but as always this year it’s now about backing that up and getting some consistency going. Leinster will travel to The Sportsground wanting to avoid three defeats so that’s a challenge in itself, but we’re also confident we can put in a performance capable of getting a win.
We’ve got a few players returning from injury which is always good, and Matt Healy hits a significant milestone as well so we’re very pleased with the team we’re able to select.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS LEINSTER RUGBY
Saturday 8th April, The Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (37)
14. Peter Sullivan (13)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (8)
12. Tom Daly (45)
11. Matt Healy (149)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (33)
9. Caolin Blade (128)
1. Denis Buckley (197)
2. Dave Heffernan (141)
3. Finlay Bealham (156)
4. Niall Murray (14)
5. Gavin Thornbury (57)
6. Eoghan Masterson (108)
7. Conor Oliver (18)
8. Jarrad Butler (70) (C)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (14)
17. Matthew Burke (21)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (64)
19. Cian Prendergast (6)
20. Abraham Papali’I (11)
21. Kieran Marmion (183)
22. Sammy Arnold (12)
23. Oran McNulty (1)

Connacht 32-17 Cardiff Blues

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht made it consecutive Guinness PRO14 wins with a 32-17 victory over The Cardiff Blues tonight. 

 

A brace of tries from Guinness man of the match Alex Wootton, a try apiece from Jarrad Butler and Abraham Papali’i, and 12 points from the boot of Jack Carty accounted for the hosts’ points, which were earned thanks to a performance of attacking class and set-piece efficiency.

 

The results sees the Westerners two points clear of the Scarlets in second place in Conference B, having played two games less than the Welsh team.

 

Cardiff, meanwhile, scored two tries of their own — as well as a penalty — but it was the home team who deservedly won all five points.

 

The visitors started the game in a strong manner and Connacht had plenty of defending to do in the opening ten minutes. Matt Healy and Tom Daly, in particular, came up with some big defensive interventions but the away team’s perseverance eventually told and — after a series of phases in the hosts 22 — loosehead prop Rhys Carre forced his way over. Jason Tovey added the extras to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

 

The hosts grew into the game in an attacking sense thereafter and they made it count on the scoreboard thanks to two Carty penalties before Cardiff get a three-pointer of their own through Tovey to bring the score to 10-6 to the visitors with only five minutes of the half remaining.

 

The Westerners’ pack were beginning to gain the ascendancy and were providing their backs the platform to attack. Connacht took full advantage of the opportunity to bring their outside backs into the play with two quick tries before halftime, both from Wootoon.

 

The first try saw both wingers combine as Healy fed a pass to Wootton and the 26-year-old sliced through the outside cover to touch down in the left-hand corner. Carty made no mistakes adding the extras and Connacht lead for the first time, 13-10.

 

An even more spectacular finish was to follow after a series of phases of hard carries — with Ultan Dillane especially prominent — established Connacht field position just outside Cardiff’s 22. The ball was then worked to Carty, whose delicate pirouette and offload released Wootton.

 

The winger stood up a Blues’ defender with a beautiful step and then sped into the space he created to touch down for a brilliant try. Carty slotted the conversion to see Connacht go into the interval 20-10 to the good.

 

The Westerners began the second half with attacking intent, but the visitors were stout in defence and repelled all of the home teams attempts to score and then — after weathering a Connacht attacking storm for the opening 20 minutes of the half — struck for their second try.

 

Corey Domachowski, the replacement prop, barged his over from short range and Tovey’s successful conversion brought the score back to a three-point differential, 20-17.

 

Connacht didn’t’ let the tide of momentum flow against them, however, and they finished the game strongly — with their bench bringing freshness and attacking impetus — with two more tries.

 

First, Jarrad Butler touched down at the tail of a powerful rolling maul after Carty elected to kick to the line after winning a penalty in the 22. The subsequent line out trundled it’s way forward and the captain was the beneficiary after he dove over the for the try to make the score 25-17.

 

With their tails up, the Westerners pushed for the bonus point win and they sealed it when replacement Papali’i smashed his way over from close range. The Connacht pack carried their way into an advanced position into the Cardiff 22 and worked an opportunity for Papali’i and the big number 8 took it with both hands and touched down.

 

Carty expertly kicked the conversion to cap off an excellent performance and seal the win, 32-17.

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch 

14: Alex Wootton 

13: Tom Daly 

12: Bundee Aki 

11: Matt Healy 

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

8: Paul Boyle

7: Jarrad Butler ©

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Ultan Dillane 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Denis Buckley for Duggan, Jack Aungier for Bealham, Oisin Dowling for Thornbury, Abraham Papali’i for Masterson, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sean O’Brien for Daly, Tiernan O’Halloran for Porch.

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”.
 
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)

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 www.munsterrugby.ie.
 
CONNACHT EAGLES XV & REPLACEMENTS VS MUNSTER ‘A’ (SATURDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER @ THOMOND PARK – KICK OFF 3PM)
 
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.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V TOULOUSE (11/1/20 @ 15:15)
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.
 
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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.

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