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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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.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS
(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.
 
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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.
 
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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”.

Connacht captain Jarrad Butler has returned from injury to take his place in the Connacht starting team to face Ulster on Friday in Kingspan Stadium (Kick off 7:35pm).

Butler is one of four changes to the Connacht side that started against Leinster last weekend. Academy player Paul Boyle also comes into the back row where he is named at number 8.

There is one change in the front row as Tom McCartney starts at hooker in place of the injured Dave Heffernan who captained the team against Leinster. The remainder of the front 5 is unchanged with props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham both included as is Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux in the second row.

Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion continue their half back partnership as do Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell in the midfield.

Matt Healy’s return from injury on the wing sees him included in a back three that includes Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

 

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says that both sides have a challenge after a six-day turnaround from respective interpros last weekend; “Both sides had tough games last weekend, us against Leinster and Ulster against Munster. Both sides will be trying to recover from the six day turnaround and that is the challenge in these big games”, Friend said.

 

“This week involved reviewing the game last week and fine tuning things from last weekend so we are ready to go for Friday. It is great to have our captain Jarrad back and one or two other guys who were returning from small knocks. We are expecting a massive challenge from a real quality Ulster side”, he added.

 

#ULSvCON

Kick-off 7:35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8)Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Kyle Godwin, Cian Kelleher.

The Connacht management team have released the latest squad update in advance of tomorrow evening’s friendly away to Bristol Bears.

 

Hooker:
Tom McCartney (ankle) and Jonny Murphy (chest) are progressing well with their respective injuries and will integrate into team training next week.

Lock:
Peter Claffey has returned to full training this week following his calf injury.

Gavin Thornbury is progressing well with his shoulder injury sustained in pre-season and will integrate into team training next week.

Back Row:
Robin Copeland has returned to full training this week following his hip injury.

Jarrad Butler (chest), Eoin McKeon (shoulder) and Sean O’Brien (calf) are all being managed this week by the medical and performance team for minor knocks.

Eoghan Masterson has undergone surgery for the thumb injury he sustained in the Brive pre-season fixture and will be out of action until October.

Outhalf:
David Horwitz is undergoing rehabilitation for a hamstring injury and will look to return to training shortly.

Centre:
Peter Robb is managing a neck injury and will partake in light training this week under the supervision of the medical team.

The starting XV to face Bristol Bears will be named later today (Thursday).

The Connacht management team have named their starting line-up for tomorrow’s historic pre-season friendly with Wasps at Dubarry Park, Athlone.

Jarrad Butler leads out the side for the first time since he was named the 2018/19 club captain on Wednesday, while there are starts for new signings Joe Maksymiw and Kyle Godwin.

Makysmiw is joined by James Cannon in the second row, while there’s a front three of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham.

Butler is joined in the third row by Paul Boyle and Eoin McKeon, while the half-back partnership consists of Caolin Blade and Jake Carty.

Godwin’s midfield partner is Tom Farrell with the back three consisting of Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun and Cian Kelleher who is fresh off his hat-trick in last weekend’s friendly win over Brive.

A number of general admission and family tickets remain on sale for the game, however all seated stand tickets are now sold out. Tickets can be purchased here

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