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”.
 

A squad of 30 players arrived in France yesterday afternoon ahead of Friday’s pre-season friendly against Oyonnax Rugby at the Stade Charles-Mathon (k/o 7.30pm Irish time / 8.30pm local time).
 
The game is Connacht’s first of the 2019/20 campaign as they step up preparations for the start of the Guinness PRO14 against Scarlets on September 28th, with a further friendly against Munster at The Sportsground the previous week.
 
New signings John Porch and Rory Burke are included in the travelling party, as are academy players Seán O’Brien and Seán Masterson.
 
Speaking after the squad’s arrival, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
 
“This game is our first opportunity to put into action what we’ve been working on since the start of pre-season training at the beginning of July. I’ve been very impressed with the squad in that time and I’m excited to see what the players can offer”.
 
“We have brought over a squad of 30 players and it is our intention to give every player a run-out and an opportunity to impress. Oyonnax are a good side so this is the ideal game for us as we get closer to the new season”.

 
Connacht Rugby Squad vs Oyonnax Rugby
 
Forwards (17): Finlay Bealham, Paul Boyle, Denis Buckley, Matthew Burke, Rory Burke, Jarrad Butler, Robin Copeland, Colby Fainga’a, Cillian Gallagher, Dave Heffernan, Tom McCartney, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoghan Masterson, Sean Masterson (acad), Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury.

Backs (13): Niyi Adeolokun, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Conor Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy, David Horwitz, Darragh Leader, Angus Lloyd, Seán O’Brien (acad), Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Peter Robb.

Players and coaches from Connacht Rugby, in conjunction with Official Fuel Partner Top Oil, attended Rice College, Westport and Calasanctius College Oranmore recently to meet and inspire the next generation of rugby players and students within the school.
 
In Oranmore, Sean O’Brien made a welcome return to his alma mater Calasanticus College. He was joined by fellow senior professional players David Heffernan and Stephen Fitzgerald along with Club & Community Rugby Officer Morgan Codyre.
 
Coach Development Officer JP Walsh was joined by senior professional players David Horwitz and Tom McCartney on the pitch in Westport. Head Physiotherapist of Connacht Rugby Gareth Coughlan was also on hand to answer questions and provide expert insight on what it takes to prepare and maintain high level professional players.
 
The young students learned the importance of preparation and how a mix of hard work and commitment, rest and correct nutrition along with the ambition and belief to succeed can ensure high performance on and off the field.
 
Commenting on the initiative, Regional Manager for Top Oil Clíona Ní Murchú commented:
“As a family owned company with deep roots in our community we work hard to make a difference in the communities we serve. We are delighted that through our sponsorship of Connacht Rugby we can create special moments such as these to inspire the next generation. It was great to see so many boys participating in the training session and asking some really good questions during the Q&A.”
 
Connacht Rugby Sponsorship Manager Gavin Duffy commented:
“We have seen significant growth in participation across our school’s program over the last number of years. Top Oil are not only our Official Fuel Partner but also the sponsor of our Schools Cup competitions and their continued support over this period has been significant and greatly appreciated. Like Connacht Rugby, Top Oil are committed to making a positive impact across our communities and it is great to see this particular initiative of connecting todays professional players with the next generation of stars bringing our vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts alive.”
 

 

 

Lock Quinn Roux and flanker Sean O’Brien have returned to the Connacht starting team for the interprovincial clash at home to Ulster in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
They are among four changes to the side which lost narrowly to Leinster in the RDS last weekend with hooker Shane Delahunt and tight head Conor Carey also named in the starting XV.
 
Carey and Delahunt come into a front row that also includes loosehead Denis Buckley while Roux partners Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
 
In the back-row O’Brien comes in at blindside with Captain Jarrad Butler reverting to the number 8 jersey.
 
Man of the Match in the Leinster game Jack Carty, continues his half back pairing with Caolin Blade. In the back three, Darragh Leader starts again at full back with Kyle Godwin, who was a late replacement for the Leinster game and Cian Kelleher retained on the wings.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald who joined Connacht on loan move this week, takes his place among the replacements.
 
Speaking ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are fully aware of the challenge that an in form Ulster side will present “These interpro fixtures are massive occasions and when they take place over the Christmas period, they bring that increased level of excitement. We know there will be a big home crowd in the Sporstground and we will need to be up for the occasion with Ulster coming to town. This block of fixtures is hugely important in the context of our season, but we are not looking beyond Ulster on Friday evening.”
 
Commenting on his team selection he added: “Quinn Roux and Sean O’Brien are fit and ready to go and they come back into the side. They have been two of our top performers this season, so they will give us increased options. In the front row we also have Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey coming in. These are two other players who have been going really well over the past few weeks. We have some real depth in these positions so it is great for us as coaches to have these options and to bring in fresh legs and know that they are ready to go. Ulster are coming off the back of a great win over Munster and I’m sure they will come to the Sportsground full of confidence.”
 
#CONvULS
 
Kick-off 7:35pm:
 
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
 
Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Stephen Fitzgerald.

MATCH REPORT WITH THANKS TO THE EPCR
 
Connacht Rugby scored five tries as they gave their Challenge Cup Pool 3 qualification hopes a boost with an away bonus point victory over Perpignan.
 
Julien Farnoux opened the scoring for the home side with an early try, while Paddy Jackson kicked a penalty to put the French side 8-0 up.
 
But that was as good as it got for them, with a brace from Sean O’Brien and a sole score from David Heffernan pushing the Irish province 22-8 up at the interval.
 
Two quick fire tries from Manu Leiataua and Tima Fainga’anuku gave Perpignan hope at the start of the second half, but that was extinguished when Adrea Cocagi was sent off for the home side on 58 minutes.
 
From then, Connacht dominated and added further tries through Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher to put the gloss on a terrific away performance.
 
Perpignan host Bordeaux-Begles in Round 5, while Connacht take on Sale Sharks in what could prove to be a Pool 3 decider at The Sportsground.

Back row Sean O’Brien and lock Gavin Thornbury have both returned from injury and are named in Andy Friend’s Connacht side to face Zebre in the Sportsground on Saturday in the Guinness PRO14 (Kick off 5:15pm).

 

Centre Eoin Griffin and lock Quinn Roux, who came off the bench last week, are the other two changes to the side that lost by the narrowest of margins to Glasgow in Round One. 

 

O’Brien comes into a back row that includes captain Jarrad Butler at openside and Academy player Paul Boyle who moves to Number 8 for his second start of the season. New signing Colby Fainga’a increases Connacht’s back row options as he is named among the replacements for the visit of the Italians. 

 

Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue their half back partnership with returning Irish international Kieran Marmion also named on the bench. 

 

In form winger Cian Kelleher is named in a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back. 

 

Announcing his team, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend spoke of the threat that Zebre bring; “We have picked a strong side again this week and I am satisfied that we are seeing some real competition in the squad. With the Eagles side playing Munster in the new Celtic Cup all of our available players will get game time this weekend”, Friend said.

 

“We are well aware of the challenge that Zebre pose. From what I have seen of them they are a big physical side who are well able to throw the ball around. We are expecting another big crowd in the Sportsground and a similar atmosphere to what we witnessed last weekend”, he added. 

 

#CONvZEB

Kick-off 5:15pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Conán O’Donnell, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Kieran Marmion, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun. 

The Connacht management team have released the latest squad update in advance of tomorrow evening’s friendly away to Bristol Bears.

 

Hooker:
Tom McCartney (ankle) and Jonny Murphy (chest) are progressing well with their respective injuries and will integrate into team training next week.

Lock:
Peter Claffey has returned to full training this week following his calf injury.

Gavin Thornbury is progressing well with his shoulder injury sustained in pre-season and will integrate into team training next week.

Back Row:
Robin Copeland has returned to full training this week following his hip injury.

Jarrad Butler (chest), Eoin McKeon (shoulder) and Sean O’Brien (calf) are all being managed this week by the medical and performance team for minor knocks.

Eoghan Masterson has undergone surgery for the thumb injury he sustained in the Brive pre-season fixture and will be out of action until October.

Outhalf:
David Horwitz is undergoing rehabilitation for a hamstring injury and will look to return to training shortly.

Centre:
Peter Robb is managing a neck injury and will partake in light training this week under the supervision of the medical team.

The starting XV to face Bristol Bears will be named later today (Thursday).

The Connacht management team have released the latest squad update following last week’s game away to Ospreys in the Guinness PRO14.

Prop:
JP Cooney is recovering from hamstring surgery and will be out of action until May.

Hooker:
Pat O’Toole is continuing his rehabilitation for his hamstring injury under the supervision of the medical and performance team.

Lock:
Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from the shoulder injury he sustained in February.

Back Row:
Sean O’Brien sustained a head injury in the game versus Ospreys and will follow return to play protocols under the supervision of the medical and performance team.

Jake Heenan is continuing his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until late April.

Back Three:
Tiernan O’Halloran sustained a foot injury in the game versus Ospreys and will be monitored by the medical and performance this week.

Rory Scholes is progressing well following his ankle injury and will return to action in late April / early May.

Cian Kelleher is continuing his rehabilitation following his ankle surgery last month and will be out of action until May.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that flanker Sean O’Brien has signed a two-year extension to his contract to take him up to the end of the 2019-20 season. The 22 year old Connacht native has made over 40 appearances for the province since making his senior debut in 2015. O’Brien has previously represented Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 20 level.

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Head Coach, Kieran Keane said: “We are delighted that Sean has committed to Connacht Rugby for another two years. Sean is a local boy, from a local club (Galwegians) and we are thrilled to see the way he has progressed through our academy and into our senior professional side. I have no doubt Sean will continue to sustain that level of progress in the years ahead with Connacht Rugby”.

Sean O’Brien added: “I’m absolutely delighted to extend my contract with my home province. In the coming two years I hope to represent the people and the club of Connacht with pride. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and hope to fulfil my personal ambitions and bring further success to the club.”

 

NUI Galway and Connacht Rugby have announced an extension of their partnership until 2019.  NUI Galway became Connacht’s Academy and University partner in 2013, and since then 19 Connacht players have, or are about to, graduate from NUI Galway including current senior squad members Denis Buckley, Eoin Griffin, Eoin McKeon, Andrew Browne, Dave Heffernan, Jack Carty, Darragh Leader, Eoghan Masterson, Sean O’Brien and Conor McKeon.

Through the partnership, NUI Galway supports the Connacht Rugby Academy, and Connacht age grade player, particularly through the provision of structured third level education.  This year, 18 Connacht players across senior, academy and sub-academy squads are currently studying in NUI Galway in a number of disciplines including Commerce, Leadership, Law, Financial Maths & Economics, Science, Arts, Engineering, Computer Science & IT and Project Management.

As part of the partnership there is also an opportunity for some athletes from NUI Galway to benefit from Connacht Rugby’s high level strength and conditioning expertise.

Commenting on the extended partnership, NUI Galway’s Director of Sport, Mike Heskin said: “This partnership gives Connacht Rugby players the supports to realise their ambitions on and off the field by combining the student experience with life as an elite sportsperson.   Both organisations are focused on excellence, and since the partnership began, Connacht have succeeded in the Pro 12, while NUI Galway has risen to the Top 1% of world universities.  As this partnership evolves over the coming years we look forward to developing this culture of success while helping the next generation of leaders to reach their potential on the rugby field and throughout their careers.” 

Welcoming the continued partnership, Head of Commercial and Marketing at Connacht Rugby, Brian Mahony said: “We are delighted to be announcing the extension of this key strategic partnership with NUI Galway for a further two years. At Connacht Rugby we want our players to excel both on and off the field. Furthering their education is a key component to their personal development and having the opportunity to further their education in such a prestigious university is of huge importance. The partnership has been a huge success over the past few years and I have no doubt that it will continue to flourish into the future.”

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