By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defence coach Pete Wilkins says that the Westerners will need to show a high level of game management to win their Saturday 5:15 PM kick off away to the Dragons in the Guinness PRO14.

 

In Connacht’s last game, they left the Scottish capital with a bonus point 37-26 victory over Edinburgh. The win was underpinned by the Sportsground teams excellent exit strategy and efficiency in attack, with scrum-half Caolin Blade and out halves Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly expertly pulling the strings. 

 

Against a mobile and skilful Dragons pack, marshalled by their quality half-back pairing of Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies, Wilkins believes that Connacht will need to show the same qualities that saw them take all five points at Murrayfield on their trip to Rodney Parade.

 

“I thought in that Edinburgh game, it was one of the best examples of game management that this team has produced, certainly in my time here,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“The way our 9’s(Caolin Blade) and 10’s(Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly) controlled the game, with their kicking from our half of the field and their kick selection — of when to go long, when to go for touch, when to go for contestable kicks in the attacking half of the pitch — I thought they managed it really effectively. 

 

“I think their 9 and 10 are really important for them,” Wilkins said of the Dragons’ game plan. 

 

“Rhodri Williams at 9 and Sam Davies at 10, I think both of them have effective kicking games, whether that’s contestable kicks or clearing kicks. It’s not often you see 9’s consistently hitting the half-way line when they’re kicking for touch from rucks or from mauls and Rhodri Williams brings that ability for them to clear their lines really effectively. 

 

“How we can pressure those kicking games will be important. Under their new coaching staff, they’ve got, there’s an organisation about them, an intent to play and if you give them front foot ball they will offload. 

 

“You’ll get show and goes from Sam Davies, you’ll get quick throws and you’ll get offloads from the forwards and little tip ons. Things that will really test our ability to be cohesive in our defence, in terms of being really well spaced and watching the ball really well to make sure that we’re applying pressure. 

 

“The kicking game, the tempo and the improvement in their organisation are the things we will be wary of going into this game,” The Englishman said. 

 

Abraham Papalii’i made his first start of the season in Edinburgh. The New Zealander number 8 made a big impact, carrying for 24 metres from five carries and beating two defenders. Wilkins is excited by the former Rugby League player’s potential and has backed him to continue improving. 

 

“He’s been a great addition to the squad,” the defence coach said. 

 

“The power and physicality — especially around the ball carries — is clear for all to see, even in those few minutes he had in the unfortunate Munster game. With that comes an ability to offload and to get others involved in the game. Certainly that’s something I think we’ll see more and more of as he gets more game time. 

 

“Defensively, very similar to his carrying, he loves to hit hard. He loves to be in the game, to be around the ball and to be contributing. That physicality and that power of the tackle technique is something that, if we can continue to work on the accuracy and consistency of that,  allied with his natural power we can get someone who is a really effective defender. The more he plays the better, from all aspects.”

 

Meanwhile, back-row forward Paul Boyle says that seven of his Connacht teammates being called into the Irish squad for the Six Nations gives him an extra motivation to eventually follow them to international selection. 

 

Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Ultane Dillane and Finlay Bealham were all part of Andy Farrell’s squad for the recently finished Six Nations.

 

The 23-year-old has been an integral part of the Westerners squad since his debut in January 2018 and the Gorey native is confident that — provided he continues to play to a high standard — he can win a place in future Ireland squads. 

 

“If you play well enough, you’re going to be picked,” Boyle said of the path to winning Irish caps. 

 

“I know that if I play well enough here and put in outstanding performances week in and week out that I’m going to get picked. As you can see with the seven guys that we got selected for Ireland, if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get picked.

 

“I just use that as motivation to try and get better every day. It sounds simple, but I try to improve every day and improve every game and hopefully try to force my way into selection.”

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan, Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy and Defence Coach Peter Wilkins have all signed two year contract extensions to take them up to the end of the 2020-21 season.
 
Making the announcement Friend said: “One of the first things that struck me when I took up the position of Head Coach of Connacht Rugby was the strength of the coaching team that was already in place. They are an exceptional team and one of the best collective groups I have worked with in my coaching career. Obviously a major priority for us has been to retain the services of these guys into the future and I am delighted that we are now in a position to announce this great news. We can now continue to focus on producing an exciting, attacking and ultimately winning brand of rugby for the seasons ahead.
 
Attack Coach Nigel Carolan was Connacht Academy Manager from 2004 to his appointment with the professional team in 2017. He is also former Head Coach of the Ireland Under 20 squad. Commenting on his contract extension, Carolan said: “We have a very clear focus on where we are going as a team and a province, and we are determined to deliver further success in the seasons ahead. We pride ourselves on our attacking style and I am excited about the contribution I can make to that in the coming years.
 
Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy has held his current role since 2015 and was part of the coaching team that won the PRO12 Championship in 2016. He previously worked as Elite Player Development Officer in the Connacht Academy for a four year period. He has also worked with numerous age grade sides within Connacht as Head and Assistant Coach, along with seven seasons with the Ireland Under 18 side. Following his contract signing, Duffy added: “Connacht Rugby is an exciting place to be, both on and off the field. We have made progress this season on all aspects of our game and are continuing to improve. There is even more potential in the squad and I believe that we can maximise that potential in the coming seasons.
 
Also extending his contract is Defence Coach Peter Wilkins who joined Connacht from Edinburgh ahead of the 2017/18 season. He previously worked in Australia with the Queensland Reds Super Rugby side and as Head Coach of Queensland A. Commenting on his contract extension, Wilkins added: “I am extremely honoured to be part of Connacht Rugby and I am delighted to have extended my contract for another 2 years. I am proud of the progression we have made defensively this season and I look forward to working with all of the coaches and the squad to continue that progression in the seasons ahead.

Ahead of this weekend’s vital Guinness PRO14 interpro with Munster, defence coach Pete Wilkins spoke to the media at the pre-match press conference at the Sportsground.
 
Pete reflected on a positive Christmas block of games so far for the squad, and the role of the Connacht supporters with the game already a complete sellout.
 

 
If you didn’t manage to pick up a ticket for this weekend, you can still join us one week later when we welcome Sale Sharks for a crucial European Challenge Cup pool game.
 
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Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signing of hooker Jonny Murphy from Rotherham Titans. The 26-year-old has previously represented Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 20 levels.

 

Murphy is a former student of Banbridge High School and came through the Ulster Academy before making his debut for the province in the 2016/17 season.

 

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Defence Coach Peter Wilkins said: “We are delighted that Jonny Murphy has signed for Connacht ahead of the 2018/19 season. He is a powerful and robust forward who will provide increased options to our game.”

 

Following his signing, Jonny Murphy added: “I am relishing the challenge of joining Connacht and looking forward to joining the squad for pre-season training. There is huge competition at the moment for that number 2 jersey and I hope to add to that further. Connacht have a loyal community of fans and I look forward to representing them when I arrive in the Sportsground.”

 

 

With a tough fixture away to Ulster coming up on Friday night, Connacht Defence Coach Peter Wilkins looks ahead to our first Interpro of the season and the challenge posed by the Ulstermen.

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Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are delighted to confirm the appointment of Peter Wilkins as Defence Coach.

Wilkins, who has spent the past two seasons at Edinburgh Rugby will join Kieran Keane’s new look coaching ticket for next season along with Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan.

Wilkins, from England, began his coaching journey with the RFU before moving to Australia where he progressed within the Queensland Reds from Regional Rugby Manager to Defence Coach.

During his time in Brisbane he was also Head Coach of Queensland A and Defence Coach of Queensland Country. In the summer of 2015, he returned with his family to the UK to take up the Defence Coach role at Edinburgh.

Wilkins will join up with the province for the beginning of pre-season in June.

Commenting on the news, Peter said:

“I’m really pleased to be joining Connacht Rugby and excited about the opportunity to become a part of an organisation I have enormous respect for.

“I have visited the Sportsground as an opposition coach and have always been struck, not just by the skill set and commitment of the Connacht players on the field, but also by the passion and rugby values of the Connacht supporters and wider community.

“I’m well aware of Kieran’s qualities from my time in the southern hemisphere, and am really looking forward to working closely with him, as well as Jimmy, Nigel and the other members of the organisation. 

“I look forward to contributing to further success for Connacht Rugby and the province as a whole.”

Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane added:

“We’re delighted to be welcoming Peter to Connacht Rugby ahead of the new season. In identifying the right candidate for this role, we were taken by the consistent, positive feedback on the work that Peter has done in his previous roles. We are excited about what he will be able to bring to a new coaching team and look forward to his arrival at the start of pre-season.”

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