The Connacht management team have made four changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 interpro against Munster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
After last week’s historic win at the RDS Arena, Andy Friend’s side have been further boosted by the return of a number of internationals and others after injury absences.
 
The first change comes in the front row where Finlay Bealham is restored to tighthead prop – he lines out alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.
 
After coming off the bench last week, Ultan Dillane now comes into the starting side where he partners Quinn Roux in the second row, with Roux remaining as captain.
 
The pack is completed by Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson, and Sean O’Brien who has recovered from injury which has kept him out for the last six weeks.
 
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre after brilliant performances last weekend.
 
The final change comes in the back three where Ben O’Donnell comes in for his first start in a Connacht jersey – forming an exciting trio with Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
Among the replacements include the returning Paul Boyle and Irish international Dave Heffernan.
 
Connacht Rugby can also confirm that all Pro players and management returned negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing. A number of players who have spent the last period in self-isolation will return to training next week.
 
Commenting on the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s win was a testament to the belief and determination that was still present in our squad despite a challenging few weeks. Now it’s all about backing that up and finding another win that will bring us right into contention for a Guinness PRO14 final spot.
We’ve had a very positive week with no news COVID cases and a few players available to us again, but we will still have to be at our best to overcome a Munster side that is full of quality.”

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 9th January, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (28)
14. Ben O’Donnell (1)
13. Sammy Arnold (11)
12. Tom Daly (35)
11. Alex Wootton (10)
10. Jack Carty (148)
9. Caolin Blade (119)
1. Denis Buckley (189)
2. Shane Delahunt (87)
3. Finlay Bealham (147)
4. Ultan Dillane (105)
5. Quinn Roux (105) (C)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (11)
8. Sean Masterson (8)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (135
17. Matthew Burke (17)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (59)
19. Gavin Thornbury (47)
20. Paul Boyle (47)
21. Kieran Marmion (173)
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)
23. Peter Sullivan (6)

Andy Friend has named his side to face Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow night, with the Head Coach making just one change to the team that was originally due to play Ospreys last week.
 
That game was postponed due to a COVID-19 case in the Welsh club, and the management have opted to stick with most of that same matchday 23, with some players looking to pick up some game time before a hectic period of Heineken Champions Cup and Christmas interpros.
 
The one change is at scrum-half where Caolin Blade has recovered from a recent hamstring injury to start his first game since late October, with Colm Reilly named among the replacements.
 
Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.
 
Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.
 
Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.
 
Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week. In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”
 
Regarding this week’s game, Friend added:
 
“Home games in the PRO14 are where we need to build up our points tally and tomorrow will be no different. It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Friday 4th December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)
 
NOTE: All players and management produced negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing.

Paul Boyle will lead out Connacht as captain for the first time on Saturday after he was named as skipper for the Guinness PRO14 clash with Ospreys at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
The 23 year old has enjoyed a brilliant rise through the Connacht ranks, making his debut as a Year 1 Academy player against Munster in January 2018. He was then rewarded with his first professional contract midway through the 2018/19 season and has gone on to play 44 times for the province.
 
Boyle captains the side from the number 8 position and will be flanked by Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver at the back of the scrum.
 
The front five is unchanged from the side that defeat Zebre last Sunday, with Shane Delahunt starting at hooker alongside props Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier, and Eoghan Masterson pairing up with Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
 
At half-back Ballinasloe native Colm Reilly continues at scrum-half, while Conor Fitzgerald comes in for his second start of the season at out-half. The in-form Tom Daly remains at inside-centre with Sammy Arnold alongside him, and Peter Sullivan returns to the starting XV in a back three which features Alex Wootton on the opposite wing and John Porch at full-back.
 
Meanwhile Academy player Sean O’Brien is in line to make his professional debut. The centre has been named among the replacements and could feature for the province for the first time if called upon.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“Paul Boyle is a natural born leader and fully deserves the opportunity to lead out the squad for the first time. He’s been in tremendous form for us again this season and I’d like to congratulate him on the honour. We’ve also got Academy player Sean O’Brien potentially making his debut so it’s a big day for him too if called upon.”
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
“It was really pleasing to see us bounce back like we did in Zebre, but now the focus is on backing that up with a similar display again this week. Ospreys are a very good side who have come on a lot since last season, so it’s crucial we get a good start and build from there.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS OSPREYS RUGBY
Saturday 28th November, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Colm Reilly (3)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Cian Prendergast (1)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Stephen Kerins (11)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Colm de Buitlear (5)

Irish international Ultan Dillane could make his 100th Connacht appearance on Sunday after he was named in the matchday 23 to face Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 (k/o 2.30pm Irish time).
 
Dillane is among the replacements for Andy Friend’s side, which shows six changes from the team that lost to Scarlets at The Sportsground last weekend. Dillane made his Connacht debut in December 2014 and was a starter in the Guinness PRO12 final 18 months later.
 
Meanwhile Sean O’Brien has ended a long injury absence to be handed his first starting jersey in nearly two years. The Galway native last started for Connacht in the 2018 Christmas interpro against Ulster, with his only appearance last season coming off the bench against Leinster in November before suffering serious shoulder and foot injuries.
 
O’Brien lines out in a new look back row with Sean Masterson at openside flanker and Jarrad Butler captaining the side from number 8.
 
Sean’s brother Eoghan is drafted into the second row alongside Gavin Thornbury, while there is a change of both props with Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier starting alongside hooker Shane Delahunt.
 
In the backs Colm Reilly and Jack Carty continue their half-back partnership, while Tom Farrell comes into the centre alongside Tom Daly with Sammy Arnold moving to the wing. Alex Wootton and John Porch complete the side.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“While there was huge frustration and disappointment with last week’s result, we’ve parked that now and put all our focus and energy on picking up a win in Italy. Parma can be a tough place to go but first and foremost we need to return to the level performance I know we’re capable of.
 
I’d like to congratulate Ultan Dillane on potentially making his 100th appearance for Connacht, and I’m also delighted to welcome Sean O’Brien back in the side after his long layoff. I’ve seen first-hand the efforts he’s made to get back to full fitness, so his return is a big boost for us.”

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS ZEBRE RUGBY
Sunday 22nd November, Stadio Lanfranchi, kick-off 14:30 Irish / 15:30 local
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (22)
14. Sammy Arnold (5)
13. Tom Farrell (61)
12. Tom Daly (29)
11. Alex Wootton (5)
10. Jack Carty (143)
9. Colm Reilly (2)
1. Denis Buckley (183)
2. Shane Delahunt (81)
3. Jack Aungier (5)
4. Eoghan Masterson (95)
5. Gavin Thornbury (43)
6. Sean O’Brien (57)
7. Sean Masterson (4)
8. Jarrad Butler (C) (60)
 
16. Jonny Murphy (8)
17. Paddy McAllister (13)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (55)
19. Ultan Dillane (99)
20. Abraham Papali’I (3)
21. Stephen Kerins (10)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (26)
23. Peter Sullivan (3)

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 can confirm the 16 players who have so far been named in the Connacht Academy squad for the 2020/21 season.
 
Eight players will join the Year 1 programme, five of whom are Connacht-born and were part of the Connacht squad that won the U18 Club Interprovincial Championship in 2018.
 
They are Donnacha Byrne, Hubert Costello, Eoin De Buitléar, Cathal Forde and captain Darragh Murray.
 
Joining them in Year 1 is prop Charlie Ward, lock Cian Prendergast and back row Ciaran Booth.
 
Oisín McCormack and Shane Jennings, who also featured in the U18 squad of 2018, move to Year 2 of the Academy along with Declan Adamson.
 
Year 3 features local boys Colm De Buitléar, who has recovered from a serious achilles injury he sustained last summer, and U20 Grand Slam winner Dylan Tierney-Martin.
 
They’re joined by Oran McNulty – who started at full-back in all three of this year’s U20 Six Nations games for Ireland – as well as Joshua Dunne and Seán O’Brien.
 
Further additions may be confirmed in the coming months.
 
Year 1
Donnacha Byrne
Ciaran Booth
Hubert Costello
Eoin De Buitlear
Cathal Forde
Darragh Murray
Cian Prendergast
Charlie Ward

Year 2
Declan Adamson
Shane Jennings
Oisin McCormack

Year 3
Colm De Buitlear
Joshua Dunne
Oran McNulty
Seán O’Brien
Dylan Tierney-Martin

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Tiernan O’Halloran, Sean O’Brien and Tom Farrell have all signed contract extensions with the province taking them up to the end of the 2021/22 season.
 
The three signings come as a further boost to Connacht as they face Leinster this weekend in the Sportsground and then return to Champions Cup action at home to Montpellier at home on Sunday week.
 
O’Halloran is a product of the Connacht system having played his club rugby with Connemara RFC before going on to join the Connacht Academy. The 28 year old full back has made 175 appearances for his province and has been capped six times for Ireland.
 
Sean O’Brien has followed a similar path having played his underage rugby with Galwegians RFC. The 24 year old Connacht native has made almost 60 appearances in the Connacht jersey since making his senior debut in 2015. O’Brien has previously represented Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 20 level.
 
Centre Tom Farrell joined Connacht in 2017 and has gone on to make 55 appearances for Connacht. His impressive form over the past two seasons saw him named in Ireland’s Six Nations Squad in March 2019.
 
Commenting on the three contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are delighted to announce that Tiernan, Sean and Tom have all committed to Connacht for a further two seasons. These three players are key to our ambitions and their signings are a statement of belief in what we are trying to achieve. We have made a positive start to the season so far but have some vital Pro14 and Champions Cup in the coming weeks. These signings are a great boost for the rest of the squad and everyone who supports Connacht Rugby”.
 

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