With Heineken Champions Cup rugby already secured, the Connacht management have opted for a much-changed squad to face Edinburgh at The Sportsground tomorrow night (k/o 7.35pm).

Three Academy players will mark milestones in the game, with Cian Prendergast and centre Sean O’Brien handed their first starts and Oran McNulty in line for his first pro appearance off the bench.

Yesterday it was announced that Prendergast and McNulty have both signed Professional contracts for the 2021-22 season.

Hooker Shane Delahunt is joined by props Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier in the front row, while in the second row Niall Murray partners Gavin Thornbury fresh off the back of a brilliant Player of the Match performance against Munster last week.

Jarrad Butler will lead the team out from openside flanker with Prendergast on the opposite flank and Eoghan Masterson at number 8.

Jack Carty continues at out-half where he’s partnered by Kieran Marmion, while Tom Daly joins Sean O’Brien at centre. There’s an exciting back three line-up of Matt Healy, Ben O’Donnell and Alex Wootton to complete the side.

Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“Securing a top 3 finish with games to spare gives us a really good opportunity to give more minutes to players who have been knocking on the door all season. That said, we are still going out there as eager as ever to pick up another win. It would be another positive step for us to secure 2nd place in the Conference so that’s what we’ll look to do, and the task for this group of players is to build on last week’s performance against Munster.”

All Connacht pro players and management again returned negative results in the latest round of PCR testing.

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS EDINBURGH RUGBY
Saturday 13th March, The Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)
15. Alex Wootton (16)
14. Ben O’Donnell (2)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (4)
12. Tom Daly (41)
11. Matt Healy (146)
10. Jack Carty (152)
9. Kieran Marmion (179)
1. Denis Buckley (195)
2. Shane Delahunt (93)
3. Jack Aungier (12)
4. Niall Murray (11)
5. Gavin Thornbury (53)
6. Cian Prendergast (5)
7. Jarrad Butler (69) (C)
8. Eoghan Masterson (105)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (13)
17. Jordan Duggan (8)
18. Conor Kenny (10)
19. Abraham Papali’i (7)
20. Conor Oliver (15)
21. Caolin Blade (125)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (30)
23. Oran McNulty *

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that 21 players have re-signed for the province ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In all 19 players from the existing Professional squad have renewed deals for next season while a further two players, Oran McNulty and Cian Prendergast, have been promoted from the Connacht Academy.

Today’s announcement includes four Irish internationals – Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan – while joint-leading Guinness PRO14 try scorer Alex Wootton has signed on a permanent contract having joined on loan from Munster last summer.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“I am delighted to see so many of our current crop of players sign on for another season. This is still a very challenging time for everyone in Irish Rugby so to have them commit to Connacht Rugby again says it all about the belief we have as a group to continue the progress we’re making.

17 of the 21 players were once part of the Connacht Academy, and in that group we have a mix of established Irish internationals, experienced players within the province and plenty of young players still in the early stages of their careers.

I have been very impressed by Cian Prendergast and Oran McNulty, and their first Professional contracts is the culmination of years of work from grassroots level to where they are now. Congratulations not just to them but their parents, coaches and all the other volunteers who helped them along the way.

We are continuing to shape the squad for next season, with further discussions ongoing, and supporters should expect more positive news in the weeks and months ahead.”

Connacht Rugby’s retention and recruitment remains ongoing and further announcements will be made in due course.

CONFIRMED NEW CONTRACTS FOR 2021-22

Finlay BEALHAM
Paul BOYLE
Denis BUCKLEY
Matthew BURKE
Jack CARTY
Shane DELAHUNT
Ultan DILLANE
Jordan DUGGAN
Conor FITZGERALD
Dave HEFFERNAN
Eoghan MASTERSON
Sean MASTERSON
Oran MCNULTY
Niall MURRAY
Conor OLIVER
John PORCH
Cian PRENDERGAST
Colm REILLY
Peter SULLIVAN
Gavin THORNBURY
Alex WOOTTON

Connacht Rugby can confirm the 16 players who have so far been named in the Connacht Academy squad for the 2020/21 season.
 
Eight players will join the Year 1 programme, five of whom are Connacht-born and were part of the Connacht squad that won the U18 Club Interprovincial Championship in 2018.
 
They are Donnacha Byrne, Hubert Costello, Eoin De Buitléar, Cathal Forde and captain Darragh Murray.
 
Joining them in Year 1 is prop Charlie Ward, lock Cian Prendergast and back row Ciaran Booth.
 
Oisín McCormack and Shane Jennings, who also featured in the U18 squad of 2018, move to Year 2 of the Academy along with Declan Adamson.
 
Year 3 features local boys Colm De Buitléar, who has recovered from a serious achilles injury he sustained last summer, and U20 Grand Slam winner Dylan Tierney-Martin.
 
They’re joined by Oran McNulty – who started at full-back in all three of this year’s U20 Six Nations games for Ireland – as well as Joshua Dunne and Seán O’Brien.
 
Further additions may be confirmed in the coming months.
 
Year 1
Donnacha Byrne
Ciaran Booth
Hubert Costello
Eoin De Buitlear
Cathal Forde
Darragh Murray
Cian Prendergast
Charlie Ward

Year 2
Declan Adamson
Shane Jennings
Oisin McCormack

Year 3
Colm De Buitlear
Joshua Dunne
Oran McNulty
Seán O’Brien
Dylan Tierney-Martin

Connacht Academy player Oran McNulty has been named at full-back for Ireland’s U20 Six Nations opener against Scotland tomorrow night.
 
McNulty, who is in Year 2 of the Academy system, is one of four Connacht players in the overall Six Nations squad alongside Joshua Dunne, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Cathal Forde.
 
Ulster Academy back row David McCann will captain Ireland as one of five players who featured during last season’s Grand Slam-winning campaign named in McNamara’s first starting XV of the Championship, alongside Charlie Ward, Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny and Thomas Ahern.
 
There is a wealth of experience in the pack with Clontarf loosehead Ward and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart packing down in the front row alongside Leinster Academy tighthead and vice captain Clarkson, who started all five of last year’s Six Nations games.
 
Deeny and towering Munster Academy lock Ahern are named in the second row with Sean O’Brien and Mark Hernan joining captain McCann in the back row to complete the pack, with a further three Ulster players named in the backline.
 
Lewis Finlay starts at scrum-half and continues his exciting half-back partnership with Cork Constitution out-half Jack Crowley, who pulled the strings for Ireland Under-20s in their defeat of Munster Development over Christmas.
 
Ulster Academy centre Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme, are selected in midfield, with Connacht’s Oran McNulty, Ethan McIlroy and Leinster winger Andrew Smith forming the back three.
 
Hooker John McKee won seven caps during last season’s Six Nations and U20 World Championship campaigns and is the sixth returning player named in Friday’s matchday 23, as he provides front row cover alongside Ciaran Ryan and Ryan McMahon.
 
Joe McCarthy and Alexis Soroka will hope to make a big impact off the bench if called upon, while Ben Murphy, Tim Corkery and Luis Faria complete McNamara’s first selection of the 2020 season.
 
“The players have prepared very well since we first came together before Christmas,” McNamara said. “We had an excellent camp last week in Cork and are looking forward to the challenge that Scotland will bring this Friday night.
 
“Getting back down to Irish Independent Park is exciting for all involved. It’s a fantastic venue, a really fast surface and we’re ready to get the campaign underway in front of a partisan home crowd.”
 
Tickets for Friday night’s visit of Scotland to Irish Independent Park are available here.
 
Ireland Under-20 Team (v Scotland):
15. Oran McNulty (Millfield School / Corinthians RFC / Connacht)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Methody College / Queens RFC / Ulster)
13. Dan Kelly (Kirkham Grammar / Loughborogh University / IQ Rugby)
12. Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
11. Andrew Smith (St Michael’s College / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
10. Jack Crowley (Bandon RFC / Cork Constitution FC / Munster)
9. Lewis Finlay (Down High School / Malone RFC / Ulster)

1. Charlie Ward (Tullow RFC / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
2. Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
4. Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
5. Thomas Ahern (Waterpark RFC / Shannon RFC / Munster)
6. Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College / UCD RFC / Leinster)
7. Mark Hernan (St Michael’s College / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
8. David McCann (RBAI / Banbridge RFC / Ulster)(captain)

Replacements:

16. John McKee (Campbell College / Old Belvedere / Leinster)
17. Ciaran Ryan (Rockwell College / Cashel RFC / Munster)
18. Ryan McMahon (Clongowes Wood College / Old Belvedere RFC / Leinster)
19. Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
20. Alexis Soroka (Belvedere College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
21. Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
22. Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
23. Luis Faria (Newpark Comprehensive / Dublin University FC / Leinster)

More at https://www.irishrugby.ie/2020/01/30/mcnamara-names-ireland-under-20-team-for-six-nations-opener/

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