Connacht Rugby can confirm centre Sammy Arnold will join French side Brive following the conclusion of the current season.
Arnold joined the club in the summer of 2020 and has made 21 appearances for the province.
Everyone at Connacht Rugby thanks Sammy for his professionalism and dedication, and wishes him every success when he moves on to his new club next summer.

British & Irish Lion Bundee Aki will make his first appearance for Connacht Rugby since the summer tour of South Africa tomorrow night.
He comes straight into the starting XV for the URC interpro derby with Munster Rugby at Thomond Park (k/o 7.35pm), and his inclusion is one of five changes from last week’s side that faced the Dragons.
Aki forms a new-look partnership with Sammy Arnold at centre, while John Porch is drafted into the back three alongside fellow winger Mack Hansen and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran. Caolin Blade and Jack Carty are retained, with Carty named as captain for the game.
The front-row of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Niall Murray comes into the second row alongside Ultan Dillane. The final switch sees Conor Oliver start at openside flanker, with Cian Prendergast on the opposite flank and Paul Boyle at number 8.
The Connacht management team have opted for a 6:2 split on the bench, with back rowers Abraham Papali’i and Jarrad Butler both included as well as Kieran Marmion. Summer arrival Greg McGrath is also in line for his Connacht debut after he was named as replacement loosehead prop.
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“There’s no getting away from the fact last week wasn’t good enough, so now it’s up to us all to put in the type of performance we know they’re capable of. Training this week has been good & Bundee’s return is a boost as he’ll give us his typical energy that is needed for an interpro.
Both games in Limerick last season ended with a single score between the two sides, so we know it’ll be a tight game. The team that is most consistent for the full 80 minutes and is clinical with the chances they create will be the team that wins it.”

Saturday 16th October, Thomond Park @ 19:35

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (193)
14. John Porch (42)
13. Sammy Arnold (19)
12. Bundee Aki (111)
11. Mack Hansen (3)
10. Jack Carty (162) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (133)
1. Matthew Burke (26)
2. Dave Heffernan (147)
3. Finlay Bealham (162)
4. Niall Murray (19)
5. Ultan Dillane (117)
6. Cian Prendergast (13)
7. Conor Oliver (23)
8. Paul Boyle (60)

16. Shane Delahunt (103)
17. Greg McGrath *
18. Jack Aungier (16)
19. Eoghan Masterson (111)
20. Abraham Papali’i (15)
21. Kieran Marmion (189)
22. Jarrad Butler (76)
23. Tom Daly (52)

Munster 20

Connacht 24


By John O’Sullivan


Connacht completed the clean sweep of away interprovincial victories this season after a 24-20 win against Munster in the Rainbow Cup at Thomond Park. 


The visitors registered three tries via Sammy Arnold, Conor Fitzgerald, and Kieran Marmion with Fitzgerald tagging on a further nine points via three conversions and a penalty. 


The hosts scored two tries and two penalties, but it was Connacht — with their defence solid, especially the line out maul — who sealed a deserved victory.


The away team started brightly and after their pressure earned them a shot at goal,  Fitzgerald nudged them ahead with a sweetly struck penalty.


Munster responded well and they powered over for the first try of the night when James Cronin barrelled over from close range. With the conversion successful, the home team lead 7-3 in an entertaining opening to the game.


Connacht responded brilliantly, however, and from the subsequent restart they opened their try-scoring account. A high restart from Fitzgerald caused confusion in the home team’s ranks and after the ball was spilled, Arnold showed sharpness of mind to claim the ball. The Ireland international, who started the game on the wing, powered through would-be tackles and touched down. Making no mistake,  Fitzgerald slotted a difficult conversion from the corner and the Westerners lead 10-7. 


Showing confidence in the attack, the pressure being applied by the Westerners forced Munster into conceding penalties and it culminated in Shane Daily being yellow carded for an intentional knock-on. 


With the man advantage and Fitzgerald and captain Tom Daly managing the game superbly with sharp territorial kicking, Connacht were establishing field position deep in the hosts’ half. The away team kicked a penalty to the line and — after an intricate move — the ball was worked to Daly and the centre found Fitzgerald on a loop move. The fly half ran an angled line then stepped and sped into space for a try which he converted to give the visitors a 17-7 lead. 


Munster were next to score and they decreased the margin to three points when Rhys Marshall crossed the line from close range and Ben Healy converted. The teams went into the break with Connacht leading 17-14 after an enthralling half of rugby.


The Westerners began the second half in blistering fashion and they had a try scarcely a minute in. Strong defence forced a Munster knock-on and from the loose ball Cian Prendergast kicked through. The ball fell to Marmion and the scrum-half pinned his ears back and ran in the try. Fitzgerald kept his 100% success rate off the tee up and Connacht established a 24-14 lead.


The scoring was going tit for tat and Munster were next to trouble the scoreboard when Healy drove a long-range penalty between the sticks to reduce the deficit to 24-17.


With their tails up, the home side cranked up the pressure and laid siege to the visitors’ 22, but Connacht were stout and committed in defence. Replacement Denis Buckley completed the defensive set when he brilliantly turned over the ball with Munster pushing for a try with fewer than ten minutes remaining. 


The hosts weren’t disheartened, though, and they registered a score when replacement Joey Carbery shortened the gap with a penalty to bring the score to 24-20.


Munster continued to push and probe, but the Connacht defence — with centre Sean O’Brien and lock Ultan Dillane particularly impressive — held firm to seal the win and complete the sweep of away victories for the Westerners in interpro’s this season. 


Connacht team:


15: John Porch 

14: Sammy Arnold 

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly (C)

11: Alex Wootton

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 



8: Abraham Papali’i 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Paddy McAllister 


Replacements: Denis Buckley for McAllister, Finlay Bealham for Robertson McCoy, Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Sean Masterson for Oliver. Jack Carty for Fitzgerald.  Caolin Blade for Marmion. Peter Sullivan for Arnold. Eoghan Masterson for Papali’i 


By John O’Sullivan


Connacht Rugby and totalhealth Prozone The Inside Track Series continues on Monday next the 15th of March at 7 pm.


This series is aimed at all youth club & school players, boys and girls.


Connacht Rugby’s Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold will give an insight into the role of a centre in both attack and defence and how the role has evolved and how they develop their skills.


This is a fantastic opportunity for young players to get position-specific knowledge from two professional players.


This event is free to attend, simply click on the link to register.


Please note pre-registration is a must and places are limited. 



By John O’Sullivan

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will employ a confrontational and attacking gameplan in their Heineken Champions Cup clash away at Racing 92 on Sunday afternoon at 3:15PM.


The French side have contested two of the last three Champions Cup finals and are also unbeaten in European competition in their indoor La Défense Arena home.


While respecting and acknowledging the quality of the Parisians, Friend says that his team will be aggressive and will attack the game, both in defence and in attack.


“One of the things we talked about them in our preview yesterday, it was Pete Wilkins(the defence coach) who said, is that if you sit back and look at all their names on the team sheet and you let them play, they are going to be good. But if you just say ‘it’s another 15 bodies’ out there and we actually attack it and we don’t give them the time and the space, there’s a chance of upsetting them,” the Australian said of Connacht’s tactical plan for their first European game of the season.


“We asked(the squad) do you think we can beat Racing? Yeah, I think we can. Sweet. Let’s focus on that. We go into the weekend -- and the whole week -- with that in mind and we do believe we can beat them. So, let’s go over there and give it a shot.”


Friend, the former Australian Sevens coach, also highlighted attacking efficiency -- taking scoring chances when they are presented -- as an area of the game where the Westerners will need to be sharp. He is, however, optimistic that Connacht can manufacture openings that they can profit from.


“We got to nail our opportunities. When we get them -- and we’ll get them -- we got to make sure we’re clinical with those. We might not get too many, but if we get them early and we nail them early it will put us in a strong position. If you don’t, and they nail theirs, the gap will start to increase.


“That would be the first thing. The second thing is we got to get in their face. We got to get off the line and don’t worry about who is wearing the jersey and just get off the line and get your body in front of those jerseys and shut down their time and space.”


Statistically, games played at Racing’s home -- with their 4G indoor pitch -- see’s the ball in play for longer stretches of time than in other stadiums.


Friend is confident that his team can adapt to this and the playing surface suits their preferred, attacking mentality and style of play.


“We much prefer to play an open brand of rugby,” the Australian said.


“At the same time, we need to play in the right areas of the field so we’ll need to get that balance right. For us, we’re excited to be able to get to a venue where the conditions aren’t going to hurt us. We saw that a little bit against Zebre(in Connacht’s 52-7 win), we had a beautiful afternoon and we managed to score six or seven tries over there. It’s definitely something that suits us and is something the players get excited about. There’s a real buzz in the group around this weekend, that’s for sure.”


Meanwhile, centre Sammy Arnold echoed Friend’s thought’s and said that the players are aware that their approach in the La Défense Arena will have to be attack minded.


The former Munster back has settled into life well with Connacht and says that Sunday’s game is exciting, especially because he predicts it will be played with a quick tempo with attacking tactics favoured by both teams.


“It’s such a fast surface that you have to play an attacking brand over there,” the Irish international said.


“You can’t go over there and not play. You’re going to have to score tries to win at Racing. The surface, the dryness, there’s no wind or no rain is a massive factor when playing there.


“Definitely. It will definitely be a quick tempo game. They like to play a quick brand of rugby and obviously have some exciting players. We like to play that brand of rugby and we showed we can score some great tries when we are at our best. It’s set to be a really exciting game.”


Arnold, 24, says that the squad believe they belong at the highest level of European club rugby and they are excited to test themselves against the best teams.


“We’re in a competition now we believe we should be in and for us we’re just taking it one game at a time. Like I said, it’s such an exciting fixture and these are the games you want to be a part of, these big European games, these exciting games.”

By John O’Sullivan

Connacht returned to winning ways in the Guinness PRO14 with a 37-26, bonus-point win away to Edinburgh. 


A brace of tries from Alex Wootton, as well as a touchdown apiece from Caolin Blade, Sammy Arnold, and Shane Delahunt —  with Conor Fitzgerald(3) and Tom Daly (9) both adding points from the tee — sealed the win for Andy Friends Westerners in a performance of brilliant attacking execution.


Without seven of their Irish contingent, the visitors — who made several changes to their team after the loss to Cardiff Blues two weekends ago — started with intent and they scored the first points of the night when Fitzgerald confidently slotted a penalty.


Edinburgh responded well, however, and scored the first try of the night when Nick Groom — the Scots’ captain — sniped over from short range after his pack put significant pressure on the Connacht line. Jaco van der Walt added the extras to make the score 7-3 in favour of the hosts.


Fitzgerald, making his first start of the campaign, was running the Westerners backline with authority and with a massive penalty kick for touch gave the visitors a line out in the Edinburgh 22.


Blade, after the line-out gave Connacht possession close to the hosts line, then scored the Irish teams first try of the game when he, in a move of sheer ingenuity,  — tight to the touchline on the blindside — cleverly grubber kicked ahead, before catching his own kick to touch down.  The conversion was wide, but the score was deserved for the Westerners after a strong start.


One try soon became two when Fitzgerald, who was given territory by the powerful carries of the pack — with Abraham Papali’i especially prominent in the carrying stakes — stabbed a grubber kick through that Arnold caught to give Connacht their second try.


The Westerners were playing with a huge degree of pace and confidence and they scored their third try of a highly entertaining half when Wootton — whose intelligent trail line saw him collect an offload  — touched down after brilliant run from John Porch down the left-hand touchline.  Daly, who had moved to out-half to replace the injured Fitzgerald, slotted the conversion and Connacht found themselves 20-7 to the good.


There were further scores in a highly engaging half when Daly accurately kicked a penalty at goal and Mike Willemse — touching down at the tail of a rolling maul — powered over for the hosts to take the half time score to 23-14 in favour of Connacht.


Chasing the victory, Edinburgh started the second period in strong fashion and had their third try when Willemse — once again the benefactor of a strong rolling maul — crossed the whitewash. The conversion was wide, but at 23-19 the game was delicately poised.


Blade was managing the game excellently for the Westerners — with his accurate box kicks a great source of territorial gains — and he applied this influence again when his grubber kick through in the Edinburgh 22 found Wootton to touch down for his second try. Daly slotted the extras to take the score to 30-19.


With confidence coursing through the team, Connacht completed the win with their fifth try. A sharp and incisive line from Delahunt gave the Irishmen territory in the home teams 22. Then, after some hard carries from the pack, the hooker smashed his way over for a try that Daly, whose kicking was peerless throughout, converted.


Edinburgh would have the final score when Andrew Davidson powered over from close range, but it was Connacht’s night and they held out to secure a brilliant win, 26-37.


Connacht team:


15: John Porch

14: Sammy Arnold

13: Tom Farrell

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Conor Fitzgerald

9: Caolin Blade


8: Abraham Papali’i i

7: Jarrad Butler

6: Paul Boyle

5: Gavin Thornbury

4: Eoghan Masterson

3: Jack Aungier

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley


Replacements: Paddy McAllister for  Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Aungier, Johnny Murphy for Delahunt, Tiernan O’Halloran for Arnold, Peter Robb for Fitzgerald, Colm Reilly for Blade, Cian Prendergast for Masterson, Oliver for Papali’ii

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm).
Eoghan Masterson comes in for his 93rd Connacht appearance, starting at blindside flanker. Captain Jarrad Butler moves to number 8 as a result while Conor Oliver retains his place on the opposite flank.
The other changes comes in the backs where Sammy Arnold partners Bundee Aki at centre.
The remainder of the team is the same that impressively saw off Glasgow Warriors last week, with hooker Dave Heffernan joined by props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in the front row, while Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux continue their second row partnership.
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are retained at 9 and 10 respectively, while the squad is completed by the same back three of wingers Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan alongside full-back John Porch.
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
“We were very pleased to pick up the win last week and the way the squad took control of the game in the second half. That said, we are targeting two wins from these first two games so the job is only half done.
Rodney Parade is a tough place to go but I have full confidence in the squad we have selected to go over and get the win. Unfortunately we will be without Niall Murray for a lengthy period, but we are able to welcome back Ultan Dillane while Shane Delahunt has served his suspension so we are in a good place overall.”

Saturday 10th October, Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm)

15. John Porch (19)
14. Peter Sullivan (2)
13. Sammy Arnold (2)
12. Bundee Aki (102)
11. Alex Wootton (2)
10. Jack Carty (141)
9. Kieran Marmion (168)
1. Denis Buckley (180)
2. Dave Heffernan (131)
3. Finlay Bealham (143)
4. Gavin Thornbury (40)
5. Quinn Roux (102)
6. Eoghan Masterson (92)
7. Conor Oliver (3)
8. Jarrad Butler (57) (C)

16. Shane Delahunt (78)
17. Jordan Duggan (2)
18. Jack Aungier (2)
19. Ultan Dillane (97)
20. Paul Boyle (41)
21. Stephen Kerins (9)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (24)
23. Tom Daly (26)

The Connacht management team have as expected named a new-look side to face Munster at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (k/o 15:00). 

There are 14 changes from the side that impressively saw off Ulster last weekend, with Andy Friend keen to give game-time to more players after a long absence due to COVID-19.

Among those starting is Sammy Arnold who makes his first Connacht appearance at outside-centre. The Irish international arrived in the summer and his debut comes against the side he joined from.

There’s also an inaugural start for powerful number 8 Abraham Papali’i. The New Zealander was signed from the Bay of Plenty and he forms a back row with Conor Oliver and Eoghan Masterson who is the only player retained from last week.

Quinn Roux captains the side having recovered from injury to take his place in the second row alongside Niall Murray, with Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt and Dominic Robertson-McCoy completing the pack.

Sunday’s half-back pairing consists of Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald, while Arnold will be partnered in the centre by Tom Daly.

The experienced Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy are included in the back three, while there’s also a first appearance for Colm de Buitléar since January 2019. The winger from Carraroe played four times during 2018/19 while in the Connacht Academy, but hasn’t featured since suffering a serious achilles injury in the 2019/20 pre-season.

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

“Our key objective in these two games has always been to give players some much needed game-time while putting in two positive performances which reflects the work they’ve put in as a squad these past few months. Thankfully we’ve so far managed to do that after last week’s excellent result. Now is an opportunity for a new group of players to impress so I’m looking forward to seeing them in action.”

Regarding the game itself, Friend added:

“Interpros against our neighbours Munster are always keenly contested and Sunday will be no different. They have a Guinness PRO14 semi-final to clinch but we’ll be looking to end our 2019/20 campaign on a high. We’ve also got two players making their Connacht debuts in Sammy Arnold and Abraham Papali’i so it’ll be a special occasion for them.”



15:00, Sunday 30th August @ Aviva Stadium

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Colm de Buitléar
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Tom Daly
11. Matt Healy
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Caolin Blade
1. Paddy McAllister
2. Shane Delahunt
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Niall Murray
5. Quinn Roux (C)
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Conor Oliver
8. Abraham Papali’i

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Conor Kenny
18. Matthew Burke
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Sean Masterson
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Peter Robb
23. Conor Dean


With 13 new faces to the Connacht Rugby pro squad for 2020-21 season, there are plenty players for the supporters to look forward to seeing in action in the months ahead.
Starting today for the next 13 days, we’ll introduce you to our newest arrivals and allow you to learn a bit about each of them.
First up? Irish international centre Sammy Arnold who joins from Munster Rugby!

How have your first few weeks been as a Connacht Rugby player?

It has been really enjoyable, I moved into my house in Barna with Conor and Alex a couple of weeks ago. It’s good to be back training again, throwing the rugby ball around and going back to normal life.

It must have been a strange first week going in and being in such a small group and not even being able to shake hands?

It was strange only meeting a handful of the lads but I ended up getting to know them very well which was one benefit. It integrated me into the group a bit slower which was nice and got to know those lads a lot more personally. We are back into a big group now and I am getting my head around the brand of rugby that Connacht wants to play.

The training has increased as the weeks have gone on, are you now at a stage where you have met all the players and all the coaches?

Training has ramped up this week so I have met all the coaches and players at this stage. We are back doing full 15 stuff on the pitch. For me, that is the most exciting thing because you can get a feel for the team. You can now throw the ball around and have a bit of fun whereas in the smaller groups there would be more gym or skills sessions.

Was it tough waiting for pre-season to start knowing you’re joining a new club but at the same time going through lock-down and everything?

The season finished very abruptly which happened to everyone who was moving club. I switched over to Connacht during the lock-down knowing that I would be playing with them in August if the games were restarting and luckily they will. It was a quick change and I said my goodbyes over Zoom and was ready to move forward.

How have you found working with the coaches and S&C teams?

In the initial stages, I had been working closely with Dave Howarth. Since getting back I have met Johnny and Barry, the S&C team are incredible. In terms of getting back on the pitch, Nigel coached me with the Irish U20’s so I would know him well. I have known Jimmy since I was young as well, so it is great being able to work with them both. There is a lot of clarity coming from the coaches on what they want from us. Pete Wilkins is driving the defence hard and it’s something I am excited to be part of it going forward.

There’s a lot of competition for places in your position so I presume you’re all eager to impress ahead of the Interpros?

There is competition no matter where you go, if you are playing the best consistently then you are going to start. It is up to myself when I get the opportunity to consistently perform and whoever is playing the best will get the starting jersey regardless. That is something that really excited me from speaking with Friendy.

If you were selected for the match against Munster how do you think you would find it?

It would be strange, especially if there are no fans in the stadium. I always like to play hard and play with my heart on my sleeve. It would be an exciting game and I would be looking forward to playing against some of the lads for sure.

What would you like to achieve with Connacht?

I am at the age now where I am not a kid anymore, I am 24 now, it’s time to kick on a bit and become a provincial starter. There is a lot of competition in the midfield, but I will aim to perform as best I can.

Have you got to experience much of Connacht and the West of Ireland since you moved?

I have been to some of the beaches like Silverstrand, the drive in from Barna to the Sportsground is amazing. It is great to witness those views on the drive into work in the morning. Maybe in the winter, it will be different, but I am looking forward to more exploring once we get a bit of time off.

Living with the two lads from Munster must be a great help to get you settled into a new club?

It makes it easier; I have played with Conor since I was 16 and he was 17, we have played together for the guts of 8 years, which has been good. I have played with Alex for four years and played with Stephen Fitzgerald since U20’s. They are all guys I know well; it makes the transition easier when you can speak to someone consistently. It is been great having people who are in the club already to rely on them for information.

Finally, it is likely going to be a while before you get to play in a packed house in the Sportsground but I am sure you will be looking forward to that time when it happens and getting to mingle with the fans?

I am massively looking forward to it. From playing at The Sportsground a few times you can tell it is a very personal stadium, the fans are very connected with the players and it is a very close community. It is something I am looking forward to experiencing it and getting to know the supporters and hopefully performing for them on the pitch which is the most important thing.

Connacht Rugby are pleased to confirm the signings of Munster duo Sammy Arnold and Conor Oliver, and Leinster pair Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling.
The quartet will become Connacht Rugby players from July 1st with Arnold, Dowling and Aungier penning two-year deals.
Irish international Sammy Arnold has made 44 appearances for Munster since joining the province from Ulster in 2016, scoring 8 tries in the process. The 24-year-old centre has been named both Ulster Academy Player of the Year and Munster Young Player of the Year, and made his International debut against USA in the 2018 Autumn Internationals.
Back row Conor Oliver has featured 28 times for Munster since making his debut in February 2016 and was named Munster Academy Player of the Year the following season. The 24-year-old can play on either flanks or as a number 8, expanding the coaching team’s options heading into the new season.
Oliver and Arnold both featured for Ireland in the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship, who were then coached by current Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan.
Jack Aungier made his Leinster senior debut last November and has gone on to make 5 appearances for the side in the current Guinness PRO14 season. The prop has also impressed at underage level, featuring for the Ireland U20s and U18 Clubs squad.
Oisin Dowling arrives from the Leinster Rugby Academy having played 6 times for the senior squad in the past two seasons. The 6’5’’ lock has also been capped at Irish U20 level.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says all four players can make significant contributions to the squad ahead of the new season.
‘“In Sammy, Conor, Oisin and Jack we have secured the signings of four very talented and promising young Irish rugby players. They each have unique skillsets which will enhance our squad for next season and beyond, and will allow us to continue to grow as a program. We’re all looking forward to welcoming them to The Sportsground and integrating them into our playing squad.”


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