Connacht’s impressive pre-season campaign continued at a warm Dubarry Park on Saturday as the side secured a seven-try victory over Wasps.

Andy Friend’s squad were looking to build on their win over Brive in France last weekend, and they did just that with a display that will no doubt please the new head coach.

With the squad continue an attacking, free-flowing running game of the last 12 months, both the scoreline and manner in which the tries were scored will surely give the team plenty of cause for optimism ahead of their opening Guinness PRO14 game against Glasgow in two weeks time.

The first of those came on the 12th minute mark when a clever move from scrum-half Caolin Blade released Matt Healy down the left-wing, and with the Wasps defence stretched Jack Carty found Tom Farrell who touched down underneath the posts.

Wasps got off the mark with a penalty moments later, but that turned out to be their only score until the last few minutes as Connacht began to dominate.

They gained a deserved 11 point lead at the break when the Farrell and Healy combo struck again – this time Farrell turning creator as broke through the middle and found Connacht’s all-time try scorer waiting on the wing.

The impressive Jack Carty almost made it try number three with the last play of the half, just stepping into touch in the corner as he attempted to gather his own grubber kick.

However that third try was to arrive shortly after the restart when Caolin Blade’s quick tap penalty brought them up to the Wasps 22, and Niyi Adeolokun acted as scrum-half to find Cian Kelleher to score his fourth try in two pre-season games.

The win was all but secured with try number four which was arguably the best of the bunch. Replacement out-half Craig Ronaldson released Adeolokun with a brilliant no-look pass, allowing the winger to use his pace down the middle to score.

Two more tries were to follow in the next 10 minutes – firstly through Rory Scholes out wide and James Mitchell down the centre after good work from the Connacht maul.

Wasps bagged a consolation in the closing minutes, but it was Connacht who had the final say when substitute Conor Carey powered over.

With two wins from two and 76 points on the board it’s been a great start to the Andy Friend era, while there were also impressive performances from new signings Kyle Godwin and Joe Maksymiw.

They’ll be hoping that run of form continues when the squad travel to Bristol for their final pre-season game on Friday night.

Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has made three changes to his starting XV to face Brive in the European Challenge Cup, in the Sportsground on Saturday (K.O. 3pm). Connacht secured a bonus point win last weekend with a 38 – 31 win away to the French Top14 side.

Darragh Leader comes into the side at full back, James Connolly is in at openside and James Mitchell makes his first start for the province at scrum half. Connacht sit on top of Pool 5 after three rounds and a win at home to Brive would put them in an excellent position to qualify for a home Quarter Final.

Sligo native and Academy player Cillian Gallagher is retained in the starting line up at blindside after making his first start last weekend. For the second time this season, Eoghan Masterson is set to the captain the side from number 8.

There is a huge amount of experience on the bench with Tom McCartney, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran named among the replacements.

In Brive last weekend the home side got off to the best possible, scoring three tries and leading by 16 points after 28 minutes but by half time Connacht were back in the game with tries from Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion. In advance of the return leg, Connacht Backs Coach Nigel Carolan says that Connacht need to be more consistent over the 80 minutes. “We are hoping to use the win over Brive last weekend to kick us off to another good run of form. We have some big games coming up and maintaining a level of consistency is what we are aiming to achieve. We can’t afford to be complacent though. We haven’t played at home in a few weeks, so the lads are looking forward to being back out in front of a festive home crowd and producing the performance that can achieve a good result.

 

#BRIvCON

Kick-off 3pm:

(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, James Mitchell,
(1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Tiernan O’Halloran.

 

 

 

 

With preparations well underway for Saturday night’s European Challenge Cup opener away to Top14 side Oyonnax, our medical team have issued the following squad update.

Lock:

Andrew Browne is rehabilitating from an Achilles tendon injury and is due to return in early November.

Back Row:

Naulia Dawai trained fully with the squad last week following his hamstring injury.

Jake Heenan injured his knee in the game versus Scarlets and will be out of action until December.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

Scrum-half:

James Mitchell will train fully with the squad this week following his shoulder injury.

Out-half:

Steve Crosbie sustained an ankle injury in the game versus Ulster and is awaiting the results of a scan to determine the extent of the injury.

Centre:

Peter Robb is rehabilitating from recent hip surgery and will be out of action until December.

Back Three:

Niyi Adeolokun is continuing his integration into squad training this week and is due to be available for selection next week.

Tiernan O’Halloran sustained a hip injury in the game versus Ulster and will be monitored by the medical and performance staff this week.

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On the road this Saturday night (see fixture details here), we return to the Sportsground the following weekend for a triple-header against Worcester Warriors, Munster & Cheetahs – buy tickets here.

Our medical team have issued the following update ahead of the clash with Ulster on Friday (K.O. 7.35pm – Live on BBC1 NI)

 

Lock:

Andrew Browne is rehabilitating from an achilles tendon injury and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

 

James Cannon has returned to training with the squad this week following his thigh injury.

 

Back Row:

Naulia Dawai will return to training with the squad this week following his hamstring injury.

 

Jake Heenan injured his knee in the game versus Scarlets and will see a specialist this week to determine the extent of the injury.

 

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Scrum-half:

James Mitchell has progressed well with his shoulder injury and will integrate into training with the squad this week.

 

Centre:

Peter Robb is rehabilitating from recent hip surgery and will be out of action until December.

 

Back Three:

Niyi Adeolokun has integrated into training with the squad this week following his knee surgery in the off-season.

 

Matt Healy has returned to training with the squad this week following his groin injury.

The Connacht medical team have issued the following update on the squad ahead of the game against The Dragons in Rodney Parade on Friday at 7.30pm.

 

Update on returning players:

Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Caolin Blade and Tiernan O’Halloran all returned to play against the Kings with no ill effects from their recent injuries.

 

Lock:

Andrew Browne is rehabilitating from an achilles tendon injury and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

 

Back Row:

Naulia Dawai will integrate into team training this week as he steps up his recovery from a recent hamstring injury.

 

Sean O’Brien injured his shoulder in the Kings game and will see a specialist this week to determine the extent of the injury.

 

Scrum-half:

James Mitchell is continuing his recovery from a shoulder injury.

 

Centre:

Peter Robb is recovering from hip surgery last week and will be out of action until December.

 

Back Three:

Niyi Adeolokun is continuing his recovery from knee surgery under the supervision of the medical and fitness teams.

 

Our senior squad returned to training on Monday as pre-season for the upcoming campaign began with the countdown now on for our fixtures against Wasps and Bristol next month.

Decked out in the new training kit, which will be available in Elverys Sports stores from July 20, there were a number of new faces settling in with the squad over the last three days.

Scrum-half James Mitchell, prop Peter McCabe and second row Gavin Thornbury have all been training along with Academy graduates Conor McKeon (scrum-half), Cormac Brennan (utility back) and Pat O’Toole (hooker).

Today, a number of the squad will be out among our local clubs with 12 senior players visiting Connacht Rugby Summer Camps, sponsored by Galway Free Range Eggs.

Two fixtures are lined up in August and Season Ticket holders for the 2017/18 season have free access to the pre-season fixture against Bristol at the Sportsground on Saturday, August 26 (3pm).

That game will be new coach Kieran Keane’s first home game at the helm with Pat Lam leading the opposition and tickets will be available to purchase shortly with a high demand expected.

Prior to that clash, Connacht travel to the Ricoh Arena on Wednesday, August 23, to take on Premiership runners-up Wasps.

 

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are delighted to announce the signing of scrumhalf James Mitchell on a two-year deal.

The 22-year-old from Maidstone in England is Irish qualified through his maternal grandmother who hails from Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. He joins Connacht from Sale Sharks where he has played as a professional for the past three seasons. His first-team debut for the Sharks came in an LV= Cup game against Worcester in January 2014. He has since played 20 times for the Premiership side, 12 of those during the last campaign.

Mitchell represented England at Under-16, U17 and U18 level before being selected for the 2015 U20 6 Nations Squad. He played in all five games in that competition and subsequently went on to feature in all five games at the U20 World Championship in Italy.

Commenting on the latest player signing, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said:

“We’re delighted to be acquiring the services of a young Irish qualified player like James. His signing highlights the potential of the new IRFU IQ programme when it comes to identifying Irish qualified talent overseas.

“James comes with a great deal of experience from playing in the Premiership and we’re excited to see what he will add to the squad and the scrumhalf position.”

James Mitchell added:

“I’m really looking forward to moving over to Connacht. From speaking to a few people about the club I’m really excited by the new challenge and I believe it is a great opportunity for me. I’ve been watching Connacht Rugby for a few seasons now and have been really taken by the exciting brand of rugby they play. Hopefully I can make a positive contribution to the team.”

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