The Connacht management team have made five changes to the starting XV for tomorrow’s eagerly awaited BKT United Rugby Championship clash with Leinster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
Four of those changes come in the pack where Peter Dooley, Niall Murray, Josh Murphy and Paul Boyle all come into the side, while there’s also a first start of the season for scrum-half Colm Reilly.
Dooley is joined by Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham in the front row while lock Gavin Thornbury completes the tight five. Shamus Hurley-Langton moves to openside flanker with Murphy at #6 and Boyle at #8.
The rest of the squad is unchanged meaning Jack Carty, David Hawkshaw and Conor Fitzgerald all start at out-half, inside-centre and full-back respectively. Byron Ralston, Mack Hansen and John Porch complete the side.
The management team have kept to a 6:2 split on the bench with the fit-again Caolin Blade and Academy graduate Ciaran Booth among the options.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Last Fridays victory over Munster saw a much improved overall performance by us that is far more aligned to what we know we’re capable of as a team. We now have to use that as a springboard for the rest of the season, and tomorrow is another brilliant opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best in Europe.
The atmosphere at The Sportsground last week was incredible and I know that our supporters will give us the same again and more tomorrow night.”

Friday 14th October 2022, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
15. Conor Fitzgerald (56)
14. John Porch (63)
13. Byron Ralston (4)
12. David Hawkshaw (4)
11. Mack Hansen (17)
10. Jack Carty (181) (C)
9. Colm Reilly (11)
1. Peter Dooley (4)
2. Dave Heffernan (169)
3. Finlay Bealham (177)
4. Niall Murray (38)
5. Gavin Thornbury (66)
6. Josh Murphy (4)
7. Shamus Hurley-Langton (4)
8. Paul Boyle (76)

16. Grant Stewart (2)
17. Denis Buckley (212)
18. Jack Aungier (35)
19. Oisín Dowling (28)
20. Conor Oliver (44)
21. Caolin Blade (152)
22. Tom Daly (64)
23. Ciaran Booth (1)

Gavin Thornbury will captain Connacht for the first time in tomorrow’s BKT URC opener against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (k/o 7.35pm).
The lock will make his 64th appearance for the province in a squad that includes three debutants and a possible two more off the bench.
Peter Dooley, Josh Murphy and Byron Ralston have all been handed their first Connacht cap, with Shamus Hurley-Langton and David Hawkshaw also potential debutants off the bench.
Dooley is named in a front row with Jack Aungier and hooker Dave Heffernan, while Leva Fifita partners Thornbury in the second row. The pack is completed by flanker Conor Oliver and number 8 Paul Boyle.
Kieran Marmion and Conor Fitzgerald are paired together at 9 and 10, while the two Toms – Daly and Farrell – start at centre. Ralston’s first game will be on the right wing, with John Porch on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back.
Commenting on the team announcement, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“We’ve had a very positive pre-season and there’s now a huge sense of excitement among the group. There’s a genuine belief and optimism about what we can achieve in this first block of games, which all starts in Belfast tomorrow night.
Ulster are a quality side and our battles against them are always hard fought. We’re really looking forward going head-to-head with them in what should be a great season opener for us both.”
Saturday 17th September 2022, 19:35 @ Kingspan Stadium
Number/Name/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (206)
14. Byron Ralston *
13. Tom Farrell (79)
12. Tom Daly (61)
11. John Porch (59)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (53)
9. Kieran Marmion (209)
1. Peter Dooley *
2. Dave Heffernan (165)
3. Jack Aungier (31)
4. Gavin Thornbury (63) (C)
5. Leva Fifita (15)
6. Josh Murphy *
7. Conor Oliver (41)
8. Paul Boyle (73)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (6)
17. Denis Buckley (208)
18. Sam Illo (2)
19. Niall Murray (35)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton *
21. Caolin Blade (150)
22. David Hawkshaw *
23. Oran McNulty (9)

An entirely new line-up will take to the Dubarry Park pitch for tomorrow’s pre-season friendly with Sale Sharks in Athlone (k/o 7pm).
After last night’s clash with Castres, a separate starting XV remained in Ireland in preparation for the game and they will line out as below.
There are starts for new arrivals Peter Dooley and Josh Murphy, while Jarrad Butler captains the side from the back row alongside Conor Oliver and Paul Boyle. Gavin Thornbury partners Murphy in the second row, while Dooley has Dylan Tierney-Martin and Jack Aungier for company in the front row.
Kieran Marmion and Conor Fitzgerald make up the 9/10 combo, while Shayne Bolton and Tom Farrell make up the centre partnership. The team is completed by a back three of wingers John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen, and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
Among the 11 replacements there is just one change from the players that travelled to France, with Jordan Duggan coming in as replacement loose-head.
Tickets are on sale now HERE.
Friday 26th August @ Dubarry Park, Athlone (k/o 19:00)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen
13. Tom Farrell
12. Shayne Bolton
11. John Porch
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Peter Dooley
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin
3. Jack Aungier
4. Josh Murphy
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Jarrad Butler (c)
7. Conor Oliver
8. Paul Boyle

16. Eoin de Buitléar
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Sam Illo
19. Darragh Murray
20. Oisín McCormack
21. Colm Reilly
22. Shane Jennings
23. Josh O’Connor
24. Charlie Ward
25. Bart Vermeulen
26. Donnacha Byrne

Connacht Rugby are very pleased to announce the signing of Leinster prop Peter Dooley.
The 27-year old Birr native has been a mainstay in the Leinster squad since his debut in October 2014, and made his 100th appearance for the province away to Benetton last weekend.
Dooley has also featured on the international scene – he was called up to Ireland’s 2021 Summer Series squad and featured 18 times with the Ireland U20s.
The prop says he’s looking forward to staking his claim for a place in the team:
“It has been a time of reflection and assessing where and how I would like to progress in the coming seasons and I feel that in order to kick on, I need to be playing rugby regularly and hopefully I will get that opportunity with Connacht Rugby from next season.
I am still highly motivated to do well and to improve as a player and having that opportunity to challenge for selection on a more consistent basis with Andy Friend is what I need and I look forward to putting my best foot forward.
Playing for Leinster Rugby has been brilliant but you only get one chance to make the most of your career in sport, and this is my chance.”

Head Coach Andy Friend says Dooley’s arrival is another positive boost for the club:
“We’re really pleased that Peter has chosen to continue his career with Connacht. He has the type of profile we look for in a prop and comes with a wealth of experience as a Leinster centurion. His signing adds further depth at loosehead and will put us in a strong position heading into next season.”


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