A number of key players have made a welcome return to the Connacht squad for tomorrow’s rescheduled Guinness PRO14 clash with Ospreys at The Sportsground (k/o 3.00pm).
 
In all there are seven changes to the side that narrowly lost to Munster last time out, with Andy Friend able to recall captain Jarrad Butler and a number of other experienced players.
 
Butler lines out in a back row which includes Paul Boyle at number 8 and Conor Oliver on the opposite flank. The in-form duo of locks Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux continue to pair up, while Dave Heffernan comes into the starting XV in a front row that includes Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.
 
There’s a new look half-back partnership with Irish international Kieran Marmion named alongside Conor Fitzgerald, while Peter Robb has been handed his first start of the season at number 12 after recovering from a long-term groin issue. John Porch continues at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.
 
The bench includes the returning Bundee Aki who has recovered from a knee injury, and Abraham Papali’i following a recent suspension.
 
Commenting on his selected team, Andy Friend says:
 
“It says a lot about the depth we have built here in Connacht that we can make seven changes from an interpro and still field a really strong side. A number of players are getting their first starts in a month so will be eager to impress, and with the likes of Bundee and Abraham on the bench we’ll have some physicality to call on when needed.”
 
Regarding the fixture itself, Friend added:
 
“I’ve spoken this week about the importance of bringing the same energy for every game, regardless of whether it’s an interpro fixture or not. We’ll put that to the test tomorrow, and after a few disappointing results at home we’re really keen to get back to winning ways here.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY SQUAD VS OSPREYS
Sunday 24th January, 3pm, The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (29)
14. Peter Sullivan (7)
13. Tom Daly (36)
12. Peter Robb (45)
11. Alex Wootton (11)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (28)
9. Kieran Marmion (174)
1. Denis Buckley (190)
2. Dave Heffernan (136)
3. Finlay Bealham (148)
4. Ultan Dillane (106)
5. Quinn Roux (106)
6. Jarrad Butler (65) (c)
7. Conor Oliver (12)
8. Paul Boyle (48)

16. Shane Delahunt (88)
17. Matthew Burke (18)
18. Conor Kenny (9)
19. Gavin Thornbury (48)
20. Abraham Papali’i (4)
21. Caolin Blade (120)
22. Bundee Aki (105)
23. Matt Healy (142)

NOTE: This week’s round of PCR testing returning 0 positive results from the Professional squad and management.

Following today’s team announcement, the Connacht medical team have released the latest squad update:
 
Caolin Blade (hamstring) will be unavailable for a number of weeks.
 
Dominic Robertson-McCoy (calf) will be available for selection over the coming weeks.
 
Peter Robb (groin) will look to integrate into training by the end of the month.
 
Tiernan O’Halloran (adductor) will be unavailable until mid-December.
 
Conor Dean (thumb) has undergone surgery and will be unavailable until January.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald (knee) continues his training integration after a long-term injury and is due to be available for selection in the coming weeks.
 
Oisin Dowling (back) is also stepping up his rehab from a long-term injury with an aim of returning in mid-December.
 
Sean O’Brien (foot) has resumed full training following a long-term injury.
 
Ben O’Donnell (knee), Niall Murray (shoulder) and Cillian Gallagher (shoulder) remain unavailable.
 

Meanwhile all Connacht players and essential staff tested negative in this week’s PCR testing.

Following today’s team announcement, the Connacht medical team have issued the following squad update:
 
Niall Murray (shoulder) underwent surgery earlier this week and will be out action until January 2021.
 
Tom Farrell (thigh), Caolin Blade (ill), Peter Robb (groin) and Matt Healy (calf) will look to integrate into full team training next week.
 
Tiernan O’Halloran (hip) will continue to rehabilitate and will aim to integrate into team training the following week (19.10.20)
 
Cillian Gallagher (shoulder) continues his rehabilitation and aims to return to team training at the end of the month.
 
Sean O’Brien (foot) continues his rehabilitation.
 
Oisin Dowling (back) continues his rehabilitation from a long-term injury.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald (knee) continues to rehabilitate and will look to commence training integration in the coming weeks.
 
Ben O’Donnell (knee) has recently joined the squad and continues his rehabilitation from a long-term knee injury.
 
NOTE: PCR testing this week produced zero positive results amongst Connacht players and staff.

Following today’s squad announcement for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 opener against Glasgow, the Connacht medical team have requested the following squad update:
 
Peter Robb (groin) and Matt Healy (calf) will both return to team training next week as they progress their rehabilitation from respective injuries.

Tiernan O’Halloran (hip) sustained a hip injury in training this week and will look to return to training next week.

Ultan Dillane (head) sustained a head injury in the Munster ‘A’ game last weekend and is following return to play protocols.

Cillian Gallagher (shoulder) is continuing his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury and will integrate into team training later this month.

Sean O’Brien (foot) is continuing his rehabilitation from a foot injury.

Oisin Dowling (back) is continuing his rehabilitation for a long term back injury.

Stephen Fitzgerald (knee) is continuing his rehabilitation from knee surgery earlier this year and will integrate into team training later this month.

Following the end of week 4 of pre-season training, the Connacht management team have issued the following squad update.
 
Jonny Murphy (head), Matthew Burke (thigh), Finlay Bealham (ankle), Kieran Marmion (ankle), Tom Farrell (shoulder) and Matt Healy (ankle) have all returned to team training follow injuries they sustained prior to the postponement of fixtures.
 
Oisin Dowling (back) is undergoing a period of rehabilitation for a long term back injury and will integrate into team training towards the end of August
 
Quinn Roux (hand) is continuing his rehabilitation from a recent surgery on his hand and will integrate into team training towards the end of August
 
Sean O’Brien (foot) is progressing his rehabilitation and will integrate into team training in early September.
 
Peter Robb (thigh) is recovering from a hamstring injury and will integrate into team training towards the middle of August
 
Stephen Fitzgerald (knee) is continuing his rehabilitation from knee surgery earlier this year and will integrate into team training in early October.

Connacht Rugby have announced that Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Shane Delahunt and Conor Kenny have all signed contract extensions with the province.
 
The signings come as a boost to Connacht as they continue to finalise their squad ahead of the 2020/21 season. Daly, Robb and Robertson-McCoy have all signed two-year extensions to keep them at the Sportsground until the end of the 2021/22 season, while Delahunt and Kenny have signed one-year extensions with the province.
 
Tom Daly joined Connacht in December 2018 and made his debut in the interprovincial derby with Munster in January 2019. In the 12 months since he has played over 20 times for Andy Friend’s side. Daly has previously been capped for Ireland at U20 level and is also a former captain of the Ireland Rugby 7s team.
 
Centre Peter Robb featured prominently in Connacht’s Guinness PRO12 winning season when he made 12 appearances throughout that campaign. The 25 year old has recovered from a number of recent injuries and has amassed 10 appearances so far this season.
 
Dominic Robertson-McCoy is now in his fourth season with Connacht. The New Zealand born Irish-qualified tighthead has made 50 appearances in the Connacht jersey – 16 of them coming in the current campaign.
 
Shane Delahunt joined Connacht through the Academy in 2014 and made his debut for the province in September of that year. The 26 year old also featured in Connacht’s Championship winning season in 2015/16 while still an academy player. He has a total of 74 appearances for Connacht.
 
Conor Kenny is another player to have come through the Connacht Academy, playing his club rugby with Buccaneers RFC and Connacht Schools with Garbally College where he won a Senior Cup medal in 2015. He has made 5 appearances in the Connacht senior side so far this season.
 
Commenting on the latest contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are delighted to have Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Shane Delahunt and Conor Kenny all signing contract extensions with Connacht. During our Champions Cup and PRO14 campaigns we have already seen the depth we need in the squad to perform on two fronts. We expect to have more announcements in the coming weeks as we are working to finalise our squad going into the 2020/21 season”.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of a host of players ahead of the Champions Cup clash with Toulouse on Saturday (Kick off 3:15pm). Bundee Aki and Jack Carty are available for selection following a two week rest period, as is Ultan Dillane who was rested last week.

Finlay Bealham has returned to full training and is available for selection after completing his return to play protocols. He was involved in a collision in the game against Ulster.

In addition, Rory Burke (neck), Jarrad Butler (illness), Colby Fainga’a (knee), Matt Healy (thigh) and Peter Robb (head) are all reintegrating into training this week following their respective injuries.

The news is also very positive on Conor Fitzgerald following a scan on his ankle. He will return to full training next week. Peter McCabe (ankle) and Tom Farrell (shoulder) are progressing well with their injuries and they will also look to return to training next week.

Conor Kenny (head) sustained a head injury in the Leinster game and will follow graduated return to play protocols. Stephen Fitzgerald sustained a knee injury in the same game and is awaiting scan results to determine the extent of his injuries.

Meanwhile, Matthew Burke (thigh), Cillian Gallagher (shoulder), Darragh Leader (calf), Sean O’Brien (shoulder) and Quinn Roux (hand) remain on the medium to long term injured list.

Tickets for the clash with the French Top 14 Champions are available to purchase here.

Connacht Scrum Half Caolin Blade is set to captain Connacht as they travel to Kingspan Stadium to take on Ulster in the Pro14 on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
Blade has been a central figure for Connacht of late having taken part in all of the province’s 12 games of the current campaign. The 25 year old Monivea man will continue his half back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald for the trip to Belfast.
 
Elsewhere in the back line, Peter Robb has returned from injury to partner Tom Daly in midfield while Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full back in a back three that includes John Porch and Matt Healy on the wings.
 
Up front, Paddy McAllister is another to return from injury in time for the interpro clash. The loosehead prop joins a front row with hooker Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
 
With Quinn Roux picking up a hand injury against Munster that will likely keep him out of action until the end of January, Andy Friend has been forced to make a change to his second row. Ultan Dillane will line up with Joe Maksymiw who came off the bench last weekend with 20 year old Roscommon man Niall Murray named among the replacements.
 
In the back row, Robin Copeland comes into the starting team at number 8. He will be flanked by Eoin McKeon and Paul Boyle at blindside and openside respectively.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have had a short turnaround from the Munster game, and with Christmas in the middle of that, there isn’t a huge volume of training the squad can get through. We are boosted by the return of Paddy McAllister, Matt Healy and Peter Robb, and those fresh legs are important as we head into the tenth weekend in a row of Pro14 and Champions Cup action”.
 
“Ulster have a fantastic record at home and are unbeaten in Kingspan since we defeated them some 14 months ago. So, we’re looking forward to another competitive interpro game in front of a passionate home crowd.”

 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Ulster (Fri 27 Dec, 7:35pm)
 
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt) (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Kyle Godwin, Stephen Fitzgerald.

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.

Hooker Shane Delahunt and centre Peter Robb have both extended their contracts with Connacht ahead of the 2019/20 season.
 
Delahunt joined Connacht through the academy in 2014 and made his debut for the province in September of that year. The 25 year old also featured in Connacht’s Championship winning season in 2015/16 while still an academy player. He has a total of 62 appearances for Connacht – 19 coming this season under current Head Coach Andy Friend.
 
Peter Robb is another player who featured in that PRO12 winning season when he made twelve appearances in total. The 24 year old has recovered from two long term injuries over the past two seasons and has featured in Connacht’s last four PRO14 games.
 
Announcing the latest contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “Shane Delahunt and Peter Robb are two players who are very much part of our plans as we finalise our squad for next season. Our ambition is to be regularly competing at the highest level and bring further success to Connacht Rugby. To do this we need real depth in our squad and players putting each other under pressure for places.
 
Eoin Griffin has also announced that he will be retiring from rugby at the end of the current season. Griffin has made over 100 appearances for his native province, but his progress has been hampered by injury this season.
 
Meanwhile Craig Ronaldson, James Mitchell, James Connolly, Conan O’Donnell, Peter McCabe, Peter Claffey, James Cannon and Conor McKeon will all be leaving Connacht at the end of the current season. McKeon has been affected by injury and will be retiring from the game.
 
Commenting on the departures, Head Coach Andy Friend said: “Eoin Griffin has been a fantastic servant of Connacht Rugby with over 100 appearances for his home province and we wish him the very best as he announces his retirement. The nature of professional rugby is that a player’s longevity at a club is finite. To all of those men who are leaving Connacht this season, a sincere thank you for all that you’ve given to the jersey. We wish you every success for the future.

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