Connacht Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Kieran Keane will depart the province with immediate effect.

 

Following the announcement, Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane wished Kieran Keane well for the future: “After an assessment of the direction in which Connacht Rugby was going we have come to an agreement with Kieran Keane that he will leave the province with immediate effect. I would like to thank Kieran Keane for his efforts with Connacht Rugby this season and wish him well for the future.”

 

Commenting on the replacement process, Willie Ruane added: “In conjunction with the IRFU we will now begin the process of recruiting a new Head Coach”.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to confirm that centre Peter Robb has extended his contract with the province. The 23-year-old made his debut for Connacht against Russian side Enisei STM during the 2015-16 Championship winning season and has gone on to make 26 appearances for the senior side.

Commenting on the contract extension, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “We are delighted that Peter has extended his contract into next season. He is a big powerful player and gives us increased options in our midfield. He has been unlucky with injury this season, but he has worked really hard to get back to his best over the past few weeks.”

Speaking after signing his contract extension, Peter Robb said: “I am delighted to have signed a new contract with Connacht. It is great to be back on the pitch again over the past few weeks and I am determined to perform to the best of my ability in the Connacht jersey. I have been honoured to represent Connacht over the past four years and to have experienced success with the club. As a player group we are determined to bring further success to the province.”

 

Connacht Rugby can confirm that James Connolly and Rory Scholes have extended their contracts with the province into the 2018/19 season.

Since graduating from the Connacht Academy, Connolly has played 28 times for the province. He made his debut in the Challenge Cup in the 2014/15 season and has made six appearances so far this season.

Scholes joined Connacht from Edinburgh in summer 2017. He has made three appearances for the senior side in this campaign and also featured for the Connacht Eagles in the B&I Cup.

Commenting on the contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “We are delighted that James and Rory have extended their contracts into next season. We feel we are really building a strong squad and both players will give us even greater options in the 2018/19 campaign.”

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce the signing of centre Kyle Godwin from Super Rugby side the Brumbies. The Zimbabwean born 25 year old joined the Brumbies in 2016 having previously played for Western Force. In 2014 Godwin was recognised as the Western Force most outstanding player with the inaugural Nathan Sharpe Medal, Members’ Most Valuable Player Award and Rising Star Award. Since earning his first cap for Western Force at the age of 19 he has since gone on to make 66 Super Rugby appearances.

Godwin’s impressive performances also resulted in him achieving Senior International recognition with Australia, when he was capped against France in November 2016. Prior to that Godwin had also represented Australia at U20 level in 2012 at the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa and the Australian Schoolboys in 2009.

Commenting on the signing of Kyle Godwin, CEO of Connacht Rugby Willie Ruane said: “We are delighted to announce the signing of Kyle Godwin ahead of the 2018/19 season. Kyle is a highly rated player with significant Super Rugby experience and we are excited by what he will bring to our midfield as we target further success in the seasons ahead.”

Following his signing for Connacht, Kyle Godwin added: “I am really pleased to be joining Connacht and I’m looking forward to getting there and meeting my new team mates. I have had a fantastic few seasons with the Brumbies and am really grateful to everyone at the club for my time there. It will be a new challenge playing in the PRO14 but I know Connacht are really ambitious about their plans for the future and I hope to play a significant part in that over the next few seasons.”

 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that winger Matt Healy has extended his contract with the province up to the end of the 2019/20 season. Healy recently became Connacht’s top try scorer when he ran in two tries against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. That Man of the Match performance brought his overall total to 44 tries in 104 appearances. In 2016, Healy made his Ireland international debut on the tour to South Africa.

Commenting on the latest contract extension, Connacht Head Coach, Kieran Keane said: “We are delighted that Matt has extended his contract. He has an incredible try scoring record and has been in really good form for us this season. He will be another really important player for us over the next few years.”

 

Following the signing of his contract extension, Matt Healy added: “I am really pleased to be extending my contract with Connacht. We have some big games coming up in the PRO14 and the home Quarter Final in the European Challenge Cup so there is a lot still to play for before the end of the season. We are also really ambitious about the future for Connacht and I hope to make a big contribution as we aim to bring further silverware to the province.”

 

 

 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that back row Eoghan Masterson has signed a two-year extension to his contract to take him up to the end of the 2019-20 season. The 24 year old has made almost 60 appearances for the province including 22 this season. Masterson also captained Connacht for the first time in the Challenge Cup clash at home to Worcester Warriors earlier in October.

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Head Coach, Kieran Keane said: “We are delighted that Eoghan has committed to Connacht for another two seasons. Eoghan is a determined young man who has come through the Connacht Academy system and is now a natural leader among the group. I have no doubt he will continue to be an important player for us in the years ahead.”

Following his contract extension, Eoghan Masterson said: “I’m absolutely delighted to extend my contract with Connacht. I am very proud of my connections with the west of Ireland and very grateful to have come through the academy system in Connacht. It was a massive honour to Captain the province on a number of occasions this season and I am determined to be part of further success here in the coming seasons.”

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy players Cillian Gallagher, Conan O’Donnell and Peter Claffey have all signed senior professional contracts with the province for the 2018/19 season.

Gallagher and O’Donnell’s development closely reflects the impressive growth of the game in the wider Sligo region, driven by the great work of Sligo RFC, Summerhill College and Sligo Grammar School.

O’Donnell’s rise through the ranks at club and school level was rewarded with an academy contract with Connacht Rugby, with the prop making his debut for the Connacht senior side in the PRO12 winning season in 2016. He has since gone on to make a total of nine senior appearances in his three years in the academy system.

Lock Cillian Gallagher is another product of Sligo RFC and has signed his first professional contract after a two year term in the academy. He made his debut for the senior team at home to Worcester Warriors in the European Challenge Cup in October and has gone on to make five appearances in total this season.

Portumna native Peter Claffey is a lock who also has a bright future having graduated through the underage system in both Ballinasloe RFC and his school, Garbally College. Both club and school have been long time developers of young talent and Claffey’s development is a continuation of their great work at grassroots level within then province.

Commenting on the contract signings, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said: “The development of players from our club and school system and through our academy is essential for the future success of Connacht. We are delighted that three more players are making the step up to full time professional contracts next season.  Our vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts sets out a clear strategy of developing home grown players through the structures in place in the province. All three have come through that path and they will be an important part of the senior squad next season.”

Welcoming the signings, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “It is great to see three players from the province making the step up to the senior squad.  All three have been integrating into the senior squad training this season and we have been impressed with the progress they have made. Their development to full time professional contracts is a credit to the work being done at club and schools level throughout the province.”

 

Irish international lock Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht starting team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick Off at 5:35pm – Irish Time). The inclusion of centre Pita Ahki is the only other change to the side that beat Benetton Rugby in Treviso last weekend. Ahki will form a centre partnership with Eoin Griffin who scored a 74th minute try against the Italians.

The back three remains unchanged with wingers Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher and full back Tiernan O’Halloran all being retained.

O’Halloran, Denis Buckley, Jarrad Butler, and Niyi Adeolokun, all featured last weekend after returning from respective injuries and all four are fully fit to face the Cheetahs this time out.

With an extended squad of 25 players, Connacht travelled from Italy last Sunday on to Bloemfontein in South Africa where they have been training this week and acclimatising to soaring temperatures of up to 30 degrees.

Having previously coached in Super Rugby, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane, has faced the Cheetahs on a number of occasions and is well aware of how difficult it is to beat the South African side on home soil. “I think everyone is familiar with their style of play. They play some really exciting and attacking rugby. They played like that when they came to the Sportsground and they were hard to beat. They are even harder to beat when they are playing at home and only one team has managed it since they joined the PRO14”, said Keane.

“It’s a massive challenge but one we are really relishing. We will be focusing on our game plan and what we can control and hopefully delivering a winning performance on Saturday”, he added.

It what will his last occasion playing rugby in the Southern Hemisphere, Connacht Captain John Muldoon is determined to come away from Bloemfontein with a victory. “The game will be kicking off at 7.35pm in the evening South African time so hopefully heat won’t be as big of a factor as during the day. We have trained in the middle of the day all week so by the time the game comes on Saturday evening we should be well adjusted to it. But the conditions are only one part of the game and it can be an excuse if you want it to be. There is no doubt that Cheetahs are a very good attacking side. If you give them time and space they will hurt you. We have to be smart in how we play the game and we don’t want to give them huge opportunities to run the ball. If we fall into that trap we will be in big trouble regardless of other factors”, the veteran captain said when speaking to local reporters during the week.

 

The Toyota Cheetahs versus Connacht kicks off at 5:35pm Irish time on Saturday and is live on Sky Sports.

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

Flanker Jarrad Butler and prop Denis Buckley have returned to the Connacht side to face Benetton Rugby in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 12pm Irish time). Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed the game against Zebre last week with a short-term injury is also back in Kieran Keane’s starting XV.

Having come through a full 80 minutes last weekend, flanker Sean O’Brien is named at blindside in an experienced back row that includes Butler and veteran captain John Muldoon.

Jack Carty is named at out half where he will form a half back pairing with Caolin Blade.

The squad is also boosted by the return of Niyi Adeolokun from injury and Ultan Dillane from international duty, with both named among the replacements. Dillane will return to Irish camp after the clash in Italy.

The clash with Benetton on Saturday will form the first leg of a tour for Connacht which will take mostly the same personnel on to Bloemfontein in South Africa to play the Cheetahs on Saturday 3rd of March.

Speaking ahead of the two away fixtures, Head Coach Kieran Keane emphasised the importance of having depth in the squad. “We have a number of players coming back from injury which will be a big boost against Treviso on Saturday. They are on a great run of wins and I’m sure they will be targeting us especially when they have been so competitive at home this season”, Keane said.

“The majority of the squad will travel on to South Africa, but we have put plans in place for replacements to join the squad after the game in Italy. These two games will really test the depth of our squad and we will need to be at our best if we want to win them”, he added.

 

#BENvCON

Kick-off 12pm (Irish Time):

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

Prop Finlay Bealham is set to make his 100th appearance for Connacht as they host Zebre in the Sportsground on Friday (K.O 7:35pm). Kieran Keane’s Connacht side are aiming to make it eight home wins in a row in all competitions in a run that stretches back to September.

Bealham is one of four changes to Connacht’s starting XV from the side that beat Ospreys last week. With Tiernan O’Halloran sidelined with a hamstring injury, Darragh Leader comes in at full back to join a back three that includes wingers Cian Kelleher and Matt Healy.

Sean O’Brien’s return from injury is a further boost as he starts at number 8 after picking up a shoulder injury in the win over the Southern Kings in September. O’Brien will be joined in the back row by openside Naulia Dawai and blindside Eoghan Masterson who captains the side.

The only other change is the inclusion of lock Gavin Thornbury who came on as a substitute in the victory over Ospreys.

Keane has named a strong squad with Ireland internationals Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux named among the replacements. Also named on the bench is John Muldoon and Conor Carey who continues his record of being named in every match day squad for Connacht so far this season.

Bealham is looking forward to leading the team out in front of a packed sportsground. Speaking to reporters ahead of the milestone game he said: ““To be in that bracket of players that have reached the 100 appearance milestone is something I’m really honoured to be a part of. From my family’s perspective, they’re really proud. To walk out there for the hundredth time in front of a Sportsground crowd in the great atmosphere they always create is something I’m really looking forward to”.

 

#CONvZEB

Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson (Capt), Naulia Dawai, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Pita Ahki.

 

 

 

 

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