Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the Connacht starting team for the visit of Benetton to the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick Off 7:35pm).
 
Darragh Leader, Peter Robb and Paul Boyle all come into the side as Connacht hope to bounce back from a defeat away to Scarlets on the opening day of the season.
 
Leader’s inclusion on the wing sees him come into a back three with Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back, while Robb will form a midfield partnership with Kyle Godwin.
 
Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade will continue their half-back partnership with Kieran Marmion named among the replacements.
 
Paul Boyle at number 8 is the only change among the forwards with Captain Jarrad Butler named at openside and Eoghan Masterson at blindside. Masterson’s brother Sean is named among the replacements, with the 21 year old Academy player set for his senior debut having impressed for the Connacht Eagles in their five wins so far in the Celtic Cup.
 
The front five remains unchanged with Paddy McAllister retained after his debut against Scarlets in a front row that includes hooker Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham at tighthead. The side is completed with locks Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux.
 
Speaking ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “While we were disappointed with the result last weekend, there is huge anticipation among the squad for our first home game of the season. We have set some really ambitious targets for the season ahead, particularly around our home form. A packed Sportsground is a very difficult place for away teams to come and I expect a great atmosphere when we face Benetton on Saturday evening”.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added: “We have made three changes to our starting team from last weekend. Some of those were down to one or two injuries we picked up and some are down to the depth we have in the squad. We are prepared for a long season where we will need a large squad of players to compete in the Pro14 and European competitions. This week we have named Sean Masterson among the replacements. He is an excellent young back row who has impressed already for the Connacht Eagles side. I’m confident that he is ready for that step up to Pro14 rugby this weekend”.
 
 
Connacht Matchday Squad:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Russia 14-42 Connacht
 
Two almost identical tries from winger Stephen Fitzgerald set up a comfortable win over a Russian side playing their final World Cup warm up game before departing for Japan next week.
 
Russia were competitive for large parts of the game and found themselves within one converted try of Connacht with 68 minutes on the clock.
 
When Stephen Fitzgerald latched onto a Niyi Adeolokun kick ahead to touch down it looked like Connacht would pull away and when he repeated the trick four minutes later, the result was never in doubt.
 
Connacht had the perfect start to the game when Tom Farrell’s grubber kick was picked up by his midfield partner Tom Daly who ran in under the posts. Darragh Leader added the conversion and went on to convert all of Connacht’s six tries with a one hundred per-cent kicking success off the tee.
 
By half time Connacht had added a second try when Leader scored and converted Connacht’s second try. Russia did respond on the scoreboard when their fullback and captain Vasily Artemyev broke from the Connacht 22. With just seven points between the teams at half time, it seemed that Russia may be capable of causing an upset.
 
Connacht started the second half the way the started the first when Jonny Murphy was on the end of a strong maul. Russia responded again with a try in the 55th minute but it was all one way traffic from there to the finish.
 
Fitzgerald’s brace then ended the game as a contest as Paul Boyle scored Connacht’s sixth and final try with two minutes remaining.
 
Connacht Team (Replacements in brackets)
(15-9) Darragh Leader, John Porch (Niyi Adeolokun), Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald, David Horwitz (Conor Fitzgerald), Angus Lloyd (Stephen Kerins), (1-8) Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke), Jonny Murphy (Tom McCartney), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Conor Kenny), Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane), Eoin McKeon (Eoghan Masterson), Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland (Jarrad Butler).
 

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting team for the vital Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues in a sold out Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
 
Centre Bundee Aki replaces Peter Robb while flanker Paul Boyle comes in for Eoin McKeon as Connacht target a win that will send them through to the playoffs of the Guinness PRO14 and guarantee a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
 
Aki will form a midfield partnership with Tom Farrell who was withdrawn early as a precaution against Zebre but is fit and available to take on Connacht’s Welsh rivals. There is a familiar look to the back three with Tiernan O’Halloran named at full back while Darragh Leader and Matt Healy are selected on the wings.
 
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade will also continue their half back partnership.
 
Paul Boyle’s selection at blindside sees him come into a back row with openside Colby Fainga’a and Captain Jarrad Butler at number 8.
 
The front five is unchanged with props Denis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy lining up in the front row alongside hooker Dave Heffernan. In the second row Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury continue their partnership.
 
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says he knows what is at stake against conference rivals Cardiff: “The stakes are really high but our destiny remains in our own hands. If we perform on Saturday and can win the game we can secure that play-off on Saturday and ensure a Champions Cup spot, which would be brilliant.”
 
“We know what we need to do to get a result. We must make sure we are nice and direct, that we control the football when we have it, and when we don’t, we don’t give them easy yardage”, Friend added.
 
Commenting on his team selection he added: “We have made just two changes from the side that played last weekend, so we have consistency which is important going into a big game like this. We welcome Bundee Aki back into the side and as always he is rearing to go and get out there in front of the Sportsground crowd. Paul Boyle also comes back into the back row where we have the luxury of being able to rotate players due to our depth. We also have some great options off the bench”.
 
Connacht Matchday Squad:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Robin Copeland, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Cian Kelleher.

Glasgow Warriors 44
Connacht 17
 
Match Report courtesy of pro14.org
 
George Horne took less than a minute to score Glasgow Warriors’ first try as they ran out 43-17 winners over Connacht in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night.
 
Dave Rennie’s side went on to score six tries in total as they moved back to within a point of Conference A leaders Munster.
 
Robbie Nairn and Grant Stewart also both bagged doubles in the win while the visitors did manage three scores of their own through Stephen Fitzgerald, Paul Boyle and Tom Daly.
 
Horne opened the scoring with 45 seconds on the clock after some great work by Kyle Steyn to dance through the onrushing defenders and find Horne on his inside who finished the job. Brandon Thomson added the extra two from a tight angle.
 
And with 15 minutes on the clock Thomson extended the Glasgow lead to 10 points with another accurate kick at goal.
 
Connacht got themselves into the game and on the scoresheet via a Stephen Fitzgerald try after he benefited from a bouncing ball.
 
On the half-hour mark Tim Swinson restored Glasgow’s double figure advantage when he wriggled over the whitewash from two metres out.
 
And Glasgow made it three first-half tries through Stewart after a catch and drive came down over the Connacht try line.
 
To make matters worse for tConnacht, James Cannon received ten minutes in the sin bin for bringing the maul down and Thomson nailed the conversion to make it four from four from the tee.
 
After the break Glasgow secured the bonus point after Stewart pulled off the back of a maul and charged over the line from ten metres out for his second try of the match.
 
With just over an hour played Connacht dug deep and secured their second try of the night when Boyle buried his way over. The missed conversion from Kyle Godwin meant that Connacht still trailed by more than 20 points however.
 
With the final ten minutes approaching the two sides exchanged further tries with Glasgow dotting down first through Robbie Nairn and Connacht responded almost instantly as Daly got another one back.
 
Connacht supporters will have been pleased to see Godwin land their first points from the tee but their joy was cut short when Nairn went down the other end to grab his second of the night leaving Connacht with two much to do with too little time remaining.

The Connacht squad have made the short trip to Scotland this afternoon as they get set to meet the Glasgow Warriors in another important inter-conference clash in the Guinness PRO14.
 
The game is a meeting of 2nd versus 3rd in Conference A after Glasgow and Connacht came away with wins over Cardiff and the Cheetahs respectively last weekend.
 
Ahead of the game we got the quick thoughts of prop Finlay Bealham and back row Paul Boyle about these block of fixtures and the challenge facing the squad in Scotstoun tomorrow night.
 

Andy Friend and Paul Boyle took questions from the media after Saturday’s 31-24 defeat to Munster in the Guinness PRO14.
 
The side came up just short in an entertaining game but managed to secure a losing bonus point in the final quarter.
 

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made five changes to his starting team to face the Cheetahs in the Guinness PRO14 in Bloemfontein on Saturday (kick-off 3pm Irish time).
 
Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row and winger Niyi Adeolokun. Connacht are aiming to back up their bonus point win over the Southern Kings last week with a second win on their South African tour.
 
The inclusion of the experienced McCartney sees him join a front row alongside props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the second row, Ultan Dillane joins Thornbury who is set to start his first game since returning from a shoulder injury that he picked up in the win over Scarlets earlier in the season.
 
In the back-row Copeland at number 8 and Boyle at blindside will line up alongside skipper Jarrad Butler.
 
Adeolokun is the only change in the backline with his inclusion on the wing. He will be part of a back three that incudes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.
 
Jack Carty, man-of-the-match last week, continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade as do the midfield duo of Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell.
 
While Head Coach Andy Friend was satisfied with the bonus point win last weekend, he says they were still left with plenty of areas for improvement this week: “The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks. They have been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they have responded really well. Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal.”
 
Friend is not underestimating the challenge that his side face, against the Cheetahs whose home form has been extremely competitive since joining the PRO14 last season: “We will need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs. They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that. But we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result”, Friend added.
 
#CHEvCON
 
Kick-off 3pm (Irish Time):
 
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Robin Copeland.
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that back row Paul Boyle has signed his first professional contract with the province. The contract will keep the 21 year old at the Sportsground up to the end of the 2020-21 season.

Boyle made his Connacht debut away to Munster last season and has gone on to make seven further appearance in the Connacht jersey so far this season.

Originally from Gorey in Co Wexford, he previously captained the Ireland Under 20’s side at the World Rugby Championship. He has been part of the Connacht Academy since 2017.

Announcing the contract signing, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “Paul Boyle has impressed me hugely this season. He is a big powerful player who shows real maturity both in how he plays the game and how he conducts himself off the field. He will be an important player for us in the coming seasons.”

 

Following his contract signing, Paul Boyle added: “I am hugely proud to graduate form the Connacht Academy and sign my first professional contract with the province. I have enjoyed the season so far and have been privileged to get the opportunity to contribute when called on. It is an exciting time to be part of the Connacht squad and we extremely ambitious about what we can achieve in the seasons ahead.”

 

Ends

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.

New Connacht signing Kyle Godwin is set to make his Connacht debut as Andy Friend’s side take on Glasgow Warriors in the Sportsground in the opening game of their Guinness PRO14 campaign on Saturday (Kick Off 3pm – Live on TG4).

Godwin forms a midfield partnership with last season’s Connacht Fans’ Player of the Season, Tom Farrell. 

The back line also includes the ever present Tiernan O’Halloran at full back with Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher on the wings. 

In the front row, Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham start at loosehead and tighthead respectively with Mayo native Dave Heffernan given the nod at hooker. 

Meanwhile in the back row, newly appointed captain Jarrad Butler is selected at openside with Academy player Paul Boyle named at blindside after impressive performances in the pre-season fixtures. 

After three wins from three in the pre-season, Head Coach Andy Friend knows there will be bigger challenges ahead, starting with the visit of Glasgow; “We’ve had three good pre-season games. You don’t win championships in pre-season, but you can lose them. We’re at the start line in pretty good shape but it’s what we do from here that’s important”, Friend said.

“We are expecting a massive challenge from Glasgow on Saturday afternoon. They got off to a roaring start in last year’s campaign and I have no doubt they will be looking to do something similar this season. They have great strength and depth in their squad so it going to be a big challenge. I have heard so much about the atmosphere that our fans create in the Sportsground and I can’t wait to experience it on Saturday”, he added. 

#CONvGLA

Kick-off 3pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun. 

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