There’s a strong Connacht contingent in the Ireland squad for the return of the Guinness Six Nations later this month.
 
Six players from the province are named in Andy Farrell’s 35 player squad, with Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan retaining their place after they were named in the initial Six Nations squad before the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
There’s also a return to the Ireland setup for Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux with the quartet showing some impressive form since the return of rugby.
 
The squad which will be captained by Johnny Sexton contains six uncapped players – Ryan Baird, Ed Byrne, Will Connors, Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson Park. While Baird and Connors have been involved in national camps before it will be a first time with the national squad for the other uncapped players.
 
In addition Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, James Lowe, James Tracy and Fineen Wycherley will train with the squad next week at IRFU High Performance Centre in Dublin. Ireland take on Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 24th October before facing France in Paris the following Saturday (31st).
 
Ireland currently sit fourth on the Six Nations table one point behind Scotland and 4 points behind England and France who have all played an extra game. Back in February Ireland recorded wins over Scotland (19-12) and Wales (24-12) before losing to England (12-24) at Twickenham.
 
Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell commented, “There has been a huge effort right across Irish Rugby to ensure that the professional game could return safely and that work is greatly appreciated by the national management. We have protocols in place to safeguard the welfare of the players and staff and are looking forward to completing the Six Nations Championships.
 
We have two competitions to play in over the coming months but will focus first on a strong finish to the 6 Nations Championships. The return to rugby has not been without its challenges as some players have suffered injury setbacks and there has been limited playing opportunities ahead of a busy and exciting international window. We will be closely monitoring the form and fitness of players competing in the Guinness PRO14 over the coming weeks.

 
Ireland Squad 2020 Guinness 6 Nations Championships Round 4 & 5
 
Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 26 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Jack Carty (Connacht/Buccaneers) 10 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 21 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 9 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) uncapped
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 43 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 24 caps
Kieran Marmion (Connacht/Corinthians) 27 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 3 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 81 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 91 caps CAPTAIN
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 28 caps
 
Forwards (19)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Corinthians) 9 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 2 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 98 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 1 cap
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 55 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 11 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 3 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 67 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
Quinn Roux (Connacht/Galwegians) 12 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 21 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 41 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
 
Training with Squad w/c 12th October
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
James Lowe (Leinster) uncapped
James Tracy (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

Living together can test many of us, whether that is living with a friend, workmate, or partner. Living with another human being is never a harmonious experience but it builds relationships and can make them stronger.

Teammates Jack Carty and Jonny Murphy have been living together in Galway the past year. They talked us through what it was like to be each other’s teammate and housemate during the quarantine period. They provided a good anchor for each other to push through and create a routine to come back to The Sportground better and stronger than they were before.

Guys, how is everything? What has been like living together over the past 2 and half months during lockdown?

Jonny: It’s been good, beforehand, we would have joked that Jack and I fought all the time, but it was Joe Maksymiw who was the instigator! When Joe moved out there was harmony for most of the lockdown period. Of course, we both have qualities that we annoy each other with.

Jack: We were getting annoyed with certain things that the other person did, Jonny would get annoyed with me when it came to the recycling bin and I would get annoyed if he left stuff out. We had a frank conversation from the offset, we were able to air it out and eradicate those tensions from the start. Apart from that, it has been good fun, Jonny has been doing loads of baking and I have been doing nothing which has made me feel inadequate. Jonny also built a bar in the back garden and “I helped him”.

Both your families are living outside of Galway, I am sure you became your own family during quarantine but was it hard not seeing your actual family during that period?

Jonny: When Connacht Rugby divided all the gym equipment out, it made sense for me to stay in Galway from a training point of view. By not going home it took the temptation away when it came to visiting friends and family, it was good in that respect. By staying in Galway, Jack and I were able to train with each other. It’s always better when you have someone beside you to push you even harder. The first month was fine but then I began to miss the interaction with my family, facetime was a lifesaver and I ended up getting used to that as the main way of interacting with them.

Jack: At the start of lock-down it was my nephew’s birthday, missing that was tough enough. My whole family lives on the same road in Athlone, that would have been the thing that I missed the most. Before lock-down, I would have been in Athlone once or twice a week because my girlfriend lives in Dublin, it would have always been a stopping off point. Not having that anymore and not seeing them in person was hard, but eventually, you end up getting used to it. When the restrictions were lifted it was nice to be able to get back home for a week and spend some quality time with them. It made me appreciate seeing my family a whole lot more.

When all this began, did you establish a routine together or did you both do your own thing?

Jack: We did most things together whether it was training or road running. We got into a good routine together and we were doing well, it did get to the point where we were nearly over training. We ended up at a plateau when week nine came around, then there was a gradual fall off which is to be expected. It was hard when you didn’t know what was going on around games and the season. We trained hard during the week from Monday to Friday and took our weekends off to have a few beers or eat the things we craved during the week. It was great to have Jonny here to push me on because there would be some days where I wouldn’t want to train and that would be the day he would push me and vice versa. It was important to have him.

Jonny: When we had a down week, it was weird, without having a routine you wouldn’t know what time or what day it was. It felt like that period between Christmas day and New Years’ day when you don’t know what’s going on. Living with Jack meant I had structure and we were able to keep each other sane.

It sounds like you both needed each other during lock-down, what did you do to motivate each other if someone was slipping and not eating healthy or staying on track with training?

Jack: We never said anything directly to each other but if I saw Jonny going out doing his training, he would set the example of going out and getting it done and put pressure on me to train. It would have been very easy to take shortcuts at various times but if I saw Jonny doing his training, it would make me feel guilty that I wasn’t so I would go out and join him. At the end of the day, it is our job, we had Johnny O’Connor, David Howarth, and Barry O’Brien sending us through really good stuff throughout the whole period so it was important to do the work, as they put a lot of time into making the plans and put a lot of trust in us to get it done.

Jonny: I don’t think we were ever not going to get the training done because we are both so competitive. If one person was doing something you felt obliged to do it. Jack might have added in an extra assault bike session and I would think to myself, I guess I will have to do one too, even though I hate them. For some of the runs you could choose self-selected pace, sometimes we would have to run separate ways because we would end up going too hard and would end up racing each other, towards the end of the run we would be completely dead which wouldn’t have been the aim of the session. If we kept that up, we would have been dust by the end of the week.

Talking about motivation, routine, and staying healthy we know you have been baking a lot Jonny, Jack how did you stay away from all of Jonny’s baked goods and avoid eating every single thing that he baked?

Jack: I think I am pretty good at not eating everything. I didn’t want to come across rude but by not trying anything it meant that I could keep that self-control that I had, I knew if I had tried a small bit I would keep eating more. Some of the stuff that he has baked has just been unreal, especially when he started making cakes and things that I hadn’t seen him bake before and seeing how creative he can be. There would be some days he would be on his feet for 6 or 7 hours baking jam doughnuts and I was like “Murph, how have you been standing in the same place the past 6 hours filling doughnuts with jam?”. It was nice to be able to test a few things, but it did require a lot of self-control.

Jonny: I did try and only make bad things on the weekends and then do healthier protein snacks during the week. To be fair, we weren’t that bad.

Jonny, how does a rugby player get into baking?

Jonny: It extends form when I was younger, during the summer or anytime I was off I would stay in my granny and grandad’s house. When my granny baked, I was over her shoulder giving her a hand, if I wasn’t doing that, I would have been with my grandad helping him out in the garden. I took it from there and seemed to have a knack for it. I started making stuff for the players after our tough sessions on a Tuesday, from protein treats to some of the “unhealthier” stuff, but we won’t tell Gavin our nutritionist that. The guys in the team encouraged me to do something more with it, so I made a social page and it took off from there.

Spending 2 and half months with anyone is intense, what has been the best part of quarantine while living together?

Jack: I enjoyed the time when we built the bar, we got the pallets delivered to the house and it was like a mini project for us. It kept us preoccupied for a while, then getting the keg put it in and having our first pint was cool. We also got into cooking a bit more, I wasn’t big into cooking before, but I got into smoking food on the barbecue and making things like beef brisket. Overall, nothing too exciting, we are coming across as really boring but I will save some of the other stories for another time.

Jonny: I agree, we started to build it in week 5 when we thought quarantine was never going to end. It was a nice pick me up. We said one evening that we should build a bar in the shed and next minute we had the structure up, then we had the shelves in then the tap was installed. It was a nice accomplishment for us and the pint at the end was a nice reward.

You have just finished your second week of Pre-season training, what is it like being back at the Sportsground and what is the new setup like?

Jonny: Initially it was strange, especially in the 1st week, the areas in the gym are taped and you must stay in your section. We are used to giving each other a high five and hugging each other but now you can’t do that. It’s weird trying to keep your distance, after every gym session you are wiping down and disinfecting everything. I think we are getting used to it now in week two. It’s different now because you are trying to squeeze a day’s training into around 3 hours, afterward you end being wrecked. It’s now the new normal and it’s just brilliant to be back in some shape or form.

Jack: To get back and see the work that S&C did along with the other staff in Connacht Rugby has been incredible. There was so much hard work put in by the staff behind the scenes to get us to a place where we can train again. It’s a testament to them, we are in 3 hours a day every second day, whereas they are in for a lot longer. It’s what makes Connacht Rugby the place it is. The first week we came in, we trained in small groups, this week the group was a bit larger and we got some ball work in, which was a nice change-up from the monotony of running and lifting weights. Seeing the coaches back this week and having a laugh during training was brilliant.

Looking towards the games in August, how do you plan to get yourself match fit again after being away from it for so long?

Jack: We will start getting back into larger groups in the coming weeks. All the training over the last few months will never replicate the intensity of a game, change of direction, chasing a kick, or chasing a line break. There will be building blocks this week and over the next few weeks where we can build a position where we can do that. From what we have seen and what the lads have put back in, all of them have come back in really good shape. You would think that we are ahead of a lot of the other teams in respect of that. In that regard it’s quite exciting as you won’t have to spend as much time on the physical development and we can focus more on skill development and the team plays earlier than anticipated.

Jonny: It’s a level up every week, even the difference from the 1st week to this week. There’s a plan in place to have us ready for the games even though we can’t do contact right now, we will be periodically building towards the games. Yesterday’s training was extremely tough, but it’s all just prepping you for the real thing.

Lastly, Friendy requested that everyone had to come back from quarantine with a new skill on or off the field. What would you say you improved on when you were in quarantine?

Jonny: I’ve got a beard and a blonde mullet now! I worked a lot on my cooking and my baking. I put a lot of time and effort into it and it got a following over the quarantine period and people appreciate what I have been doing. I had University stuff that I needed to get done and I got it ticked off.

Jack: I tried to add on to the stuff I have done already. I would have a keen interest in leadership, I got a list of different books to read. I got to read books that I had been meaning to read for a long time. I am also in the middle of a personal reflection questionnaire. I set out a routine that I would get up early every day and it has now become a habit for me. Nothing as extravagant as Jonny, but I have gotten a lot more self-awareness of myself and a keener interest in all things leadership.

Connacht 29

 Cardiff 0

Connacht delivered their best performance of the season so far – securing a bonus point win over conference rivals Cardiff and also managing to hold the Welsh side scorless over the eighty minutes. The result of the corresponding fixture last season secured a place in the knock out stages of the Pro14 and while there is a long way to go in this campaign, this result witnessed by 4,812 spectators in the Sportsground, could prove crucial come May.

Connacht exploded into this game and their physicality early on was a sign that Cardiff were going to have to fight on their hands if they were to get anything from the game. Jack Carty wrong footed the Cardiff defence on the ten metre line after two minutes and when he released Tiernan O’Halloran, a try looked on. Cardiff scrambled though and Connacht came away with just three points from a Carty penalty with 5 minutes on the clock.

The home side were dominating the territory in the opening quarter but a number of errors meant that it was the 27th minutes before they got on the scoresheet again. It was Dave Heffernan who collected an overthrow in the Cardiff lineout and he beat three defenders to get the opening try of the game which Jack Carty duly converted. That left Connacht 10 – 0 up at the half hour mark.

Three minutes later and more was to come for the Connacht as a clever grubber kick from Carty bounced nicely for Peter Robb and he drove over in the corner. That was to prove the final score of the opening half as Connacht held onto their 15 – 0 lead.

The initial exchanges of the second half saw Cardiff coming more and more into this game aided it must be said by a succession of penalties in their favour. A brilliant break by Denis Buckley on the 50 minute mark though dented punished Cardiff. His offload to John Porch gave the flying winger a free run in under the posts and Carty’s resulting conversion effectively ended the game as a contest due to a 22 points to nil cushion.

Any suggestion of a Cardiff comeback were completely dashed nine minutes later when Kyle Godwin intercepted a ball on his own ten metre line and raced the length of the pitch to register the bonus point that could prove crucial in deciding this conference come the end of the season.

So it finished with no score in the final quarter as the visitors failed to fire a shot. For Connacht there are away trips against Edinburgh and the Southern Kings with the Scarlets the next visitors to the Sportsground on the 20th of March – Get tickets here.

Connacht Scorers:

Tries – Dave Heffernan, Peter Robb, John Porch and Kyle Godwin

Penalties – Carty 1/1

Conversions – Carty 3/4

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb (60’ Tom Daly), Matt Healy, Jack (67’ Conor Fitzgerald) , Kieran Marmion (56’ Caolin Blade) (1-8): Paddy McAllister (49’ Denis Buckley), Dave Heffernan (62’ Shane Delahunt), Finlay Bealham (57’ Dominic Robertson-McCoy), Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury (35’ Joe Maksymiw), Paul Boyle (67’ Eoin McKeon), Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

 

Connacht 7

Toulouse 21

Toulouse ran out 14 point winners in Connacht’s final home game of the current Champions Cup campaign. To be fair to the visitors they were worthy winners but they certainly didn’t get it all their own way. The French Top 14 side went down to 13 men for the final 5 minutes, but a number of Connacht errors meant that they couldn’t claw their way back into the game by that point.

It was Connacht who drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty try after a sustained period of pressure in the seventh minute. The home side also had a numerical advantage as Isoefa Tekori was shown a yellow card after a series of infringements from Toulouse. The concession of the early try though brought Toulouse to life and they began to dominate possession.

On the 20 minute the visitors had their first try when Jerome Kaino raced over with the resulting conversion bringing the sides level. While Toulouse had much of the territory, Connacht stayed in this game and it looked like they would be going in all square at the break. But Toulouse piled on the pressure and in the 38th minutes they got their second try of the game when Julien Marchand got his hands on the ball off a Toulouse maul.

The first score of the second half was always going to be crucial and so it proved as Pita Ahki raced onto a charge down that had broken behind the Connacht line. Amazingly, Thomas Ramos’ conversion in the 47th minute proved to be the final score of the game.

The big talking point of the second half was how Toulouse found themselves down to 13 men. Firstly, Yoann Huget was yellow carder for a challenge on Tiernan O’Halloran in the 71st minute and then Zach Holmes saw red for a challenge on the same player two minutes later. For Connacht though the opportunity came too late and Toulouse held on to their 14 point win.

Connacht: T O’Halloran, N Adeolokun, B Aki, P Robb, M Healy, J Carty, S Kerins, P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, G Thornbury, P Boyle, C Fainga’a, J Butler (c). Replacements: D Heffernan, D Buckley for McAllister (57m), D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (52), J Maksymiw for Dillane (HIA), E McKeon, C Blade for Kerins, D Horwitz, J Porch for Adeolokun (67). Yellow card: Fainga’s 16-26m.

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.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

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.

Gloucester 26

Connacht 17

A strong second half Gloucester performance turned around Connacht’s three point half time lead as the English side claimed the bonus point win in this Champions Cup Round 3 clash. After the first of the crucial back to back fixtures, the return leg in the Sportsground next Saturday now becomes a must win for Connacht.

Gloucester drew first blood just 4 minutes into the game when Tom Marshall raced onto a pass outside the 22 and ran in under the posts. Amazingly though, Cipriani’s conversion was to prove their final score of the opening half for Gloucester as Connacht mounted a massive defensive display.

Connacht responded with their opening try after 8 minutes when John Porch scored his third try in two games. Porch looked confident in his new full back position and looked an attacking threat throughout.

While Gloucester made a handful of visits inside the Connacht 22 throughout the first half, they couldn’t break down a resolute defence. Connacht had their chances too and their period of pressure was rewarded on 18 minutes when Carty converted a penalty to leave the visitors 3 points to the good – a lead they held to the break.

It was a different Gloucester side that emerged for the second half and within seven minutes of the restart, Louis Rees-Zammit was in for the home side’s second try.

Connacht to their credit tried to stay in touch, but the English Premiership side had found a new level of confidence matched by greater accuracy.

At the game hit the 60 minutes mark, Gloucester were in again just after Kyle Godwin was sent to the bin following a succession of Connacht penalties – the final quarter was always going to be an uphill challenge from here. The home side capitalised on that numerical advantage and in the 65th minute Jake Polledri claimed the bonus point try with Cipriani scoring the conversion to leave it 24 – 10 with 15 to go.

From here Connacht went in search of a losing bonus point but and were unlucky not to have a try with 5 minutes remaining. The try did eventually come though when Quinn Roux drove at the Gloucester line 2 minutes into injury time. Unfortunately though, even with Fitzgerald’s conversion success, Connacht left with nothing.

So Gloucester draw first blood in the back to back battle. Both sides have just six days to regroup for the return leg in the Sporstground next Saturday.

For tickets to the crucial Champions Cup clash clash – Click here

Connacht scorers

Tries: J Porch, Q Roux

Conversions: Jack Carty (1), Conor Fitzgerald (1)

Penalties: J Carty (1)

Gloucester: Tom Marshall,  Louis Rees-Zammit,  Chris Harris (B Twelvetrees),  Mark Atkinson,  Ollie Thorley,  Danny Cipriani (M Banahan), Joe Simpson (Callum Braley ) Val Rapava Ruskin (Josh Hohneck), Franco Marais (Todd Gleave), Fraser Balmain (Jamal Ford-Robinson) Gerbrandt Grobler,  Franco Mostert (Alex Craig), Ruan Ackermann (Lewis Ludlow), Jake Polledri,  Ben Morgan.

Connacht:  John Porch,  Niyi Adeolokun,  Bundee Aki, Peter Robb (Tom Daly,  Kyle Godwin,  Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald) , Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins)  Denis Buckley (P McCabe), Tom McCartney (Jonny Murphy), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy) Joe Maksymiw (Ultan Dillane ), Quinn Roux,  Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Robin Copeland), Jarrad Butler.

 

Ireland internationals Jack Carty and Bundee Aki are both named in the Connacht matchday squad to face Leinster in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
Carty comes straight back into the side at out half while Aki is named among the replacements for the first interpro clash of the season.
 
Carty plays his first game since Ireland’s win over Russia in the World Cup and he forms a half back partnership with Caolin Blade. At midfield, Peter Robb is retained after his recent outstanding performances and he will be partnered by Tom Farrell.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE
Elsewhere in the back line Stephen Fitzgerald comes in on the wing with Darragh Leader at full back and the in-form Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing.
 
Up front, there is a highly experienced front row with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham filling the loosehead and tighthead spots respectively and Tom McCartney named at hooker.
 
In the second row, Sligo man Cillian Gallagher comes in for his first start of the season alongside Joe Maksymiw. The back row has a familiar look to it with flankers Eoghan Masterson and Jarrad Butler lining up alongside Paul Boyle at number 8.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are happy with the start we have made in the PRO14 with four wins in a row. What is even more satisfying is the depth we have already displayed, with 35 players already used in the opening five games. With Jack Carty, Bundee Aki and Sean O’Brien all coming back in this week, that number will hopefully go to 38”.
 
“We obviously face another huge challenge this weekend against Leinster but our challenge is to just maintain the consistency we have seen over the past few weeks both at home and away. We take huge pride in our home record, with just one loss in thirteen games and we expect a massive crowd again on Friday night”, he added.
 

Connacht Matchday Squad V Leinster (Fri 8 NOV, 7:35 PM)

(15-9): Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Stephen Fitzgerald, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Cillian Gallagher, Joe Maksymiw, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin.

Bundee Aki and Jack Carty have been named in the final 31-man Ireland squad for the Rugby World Cup.
 
The pair will now travel to Japan next week after the final warm-up game against Wales, and will aim to be part of the first Ireland squad to reach the semi-finals.
 
Carty made his first Test start for Ireland in Saturday’s win over Wales in Cardiff, producing a man-of-the-match performance. His Ireland debut came off the bench against Italy in this year’s Six Nations, and also played cameo roles in the games against France and Wales.
 
Aki made his Ireland debut against South Africa in the 2017 November Internationals, and started all five games in the Grand Slam winning Six Nations campaign in 2018.
 
Ireland – Rugby World Cup Squad 2019

Forwards (17)
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 119 caps CAPTAIN
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 8 caps
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 15 caps
Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 69 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 35 caps
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 90 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 30 caps
Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 47 caps
Jean Kleyn (Munster) 2 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 59 caps
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps
Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 22 caps
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 18 caps
John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 20 caps
Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 16 caps
CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 32 caps
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 18 caps

Backs (14)
Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 19 caps
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 19 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6 caps
Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 15 caps
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 77 caps
Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 37 caps
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 91 caps
Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 15 caps
Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 13 caps
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 73 caps
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps
Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 83 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 20 caps

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