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 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”.
 

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made a host of changes to the side that lost to Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup Quarter Final last weekend. His side travel to Zebre for a vital Guinness PRO14 clash on Saturday (Kick Off 5:30pm Irish time) – the result of which will have a huge bearing on Connacht’s hopes of reaching the knock out stages of the competition and ultimately qualifying for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
 
Among those recalled is Captain Jarrad Butler at number 8, who comes into a back row alongside Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
 
Ireland international lock Ultan Dillane comes back into the second row alongside Gavin Thornbury, while in the front row, props Denis Buckley and Dominic Robertson-McCoy are selected alongside hooker Dave Heffernan.
 
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade form the half-back pairing, with Carty shaking off an arm injury that caused him to be withdrawn last weekend.
 
In the midfield, Peter Robb comes in for his third start of the season alongside the impressive Tom Farrell.
 
In the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back with Matt Healy and Darragh Leader on the wings.
 
Ahead of the game, the Connacht Head Coach says that a win this weekend is vital as his side fight it out for a PRO14 playoff spot; “We have picked a strong side and a side capable of going to Zebre and winning the game. We are fully aware of the dangers that Zebre can present, particularly when they are at home. There are a number of our boys who were not involved in Europe last weekend, so they are coming back in fresh after that break and that brings more energy to the group”, Friend said.
 
On Connacht’s overall performance this season, Friend added; “We said all along that we want to be in the knockout stages of the PRO14 and with three games to go, our destiny is still in our own hands. If we keep winning we will be in that playoff spot so that is our sole focus away to Zebre on Saturday”.
 
 
Kick-off 5:30pm (Irish Time)
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conan O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, Robin Copeland, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Cian Kelleher.

Full back Tiernan O’Halloran has returned from a leg injury to take his place in the Connacht side to face Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 3pm). The injury ruled O’Halloran out of all three of Connacht’s interpro fixtures over the Christmas period.
 
He comes into a back line that also includes a new midfield pairing with Bundee Aki and Kyle Godwin both coming back into the starting team.
 
Following his contract extension earlier this week, Jack Carty continues at out half where he is partnered by former Sale Sharks player James Mitchell.
 
In the front row Denis Buckley is named at loosehead having recovered from illness that ruled him out of the clash with Munster. Buckley will make his 150th appearance for his province against the Premiership side following his late withdrawal last week.
 
There is also a new second row partnership with Ultan Dillane and James Cannon coming into the side, while in the back row Captain Jarrad Butler returns from injury and is named at number 8 alongside James Connolly and Eoghan Masterson.
 
With Connacht sitting just three points behind Sale in Pool 3, the result on Saturday will have a huge bearing on who qualifies for the knock out stages of the competition. Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says he feels his side have improved hugely since the teams last met in October; “Sale are a really good side and we saw the quality they have when we played them away earlier in the season. Since then though, we have improved with every game and we also picked up a vital away win against Perpignan in the competition before Christmas.”
 
We are very much alive in two competitions and want to reach the knock out stages in both. This is another big clash in front of a home crowd. Our support has been incredible all season and we are expecting another big atmosphere this week”, Friend added.
 
#CONvSAL
 
Kick-off 3pm:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, James Mitchell, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, David Horwitz, Darragh Leader.

“There’s great confidence in the squad, and that’s come from the competition we have for places.”
 
Ahead of Saturday’s Christmas interpro with Leinster, Tiernan O’Halloran spoke to the media at the pre-match press conference and discussed the increasing strength in depth within the squad, and the challenge of taking on the European champions in their own backyard.
 

Connacht Rugby are pleased to announce that the Connacht U18 Boys & Girls teams will be the guests of honour at this Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 tie between Connacht and Scarlets at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).

The Connacht U18 Girls team made history last weekend when they sealed the interprovincial title, beating Leinster 21-19 to complete a clean sweep of victories in the competition. It’s the first time in the province’s history an U18 Girls team has won an interprovincial series.

The victory came on the back of a similar feat by the Connacht U18 Boys, who also won the interprovincial title at the U18s Festival at University of Limerick in late August.

 

 

Their achievements are especially significant as it is the first time ever that Connacht have won both male and female interprovincial titles in the same season.

As a result both sets of squads and management will be attending the game and will parade their trophies at half-time, following which the head coaches and captains will be interviewed on the the field.

The launch has taken place of the 2018 Connacht Rugby Summer Camps with official partners ‘totalhealth Pharmacy’.

In total 18 camps will be held across the next six weeks at clubs around the province, starting this week (Monday 2nd – Friday 6th July) at Creggs RFC, Ballinasloe RFC and Sligo RFC.

The Summer Camps, which are run by fully accredited IRFU coaches, are open to boys and girls between the ages of 6-12 and no prior rugby experience is necessary. 

Children will get to experience the sport in a fun, safe environment, while developing the basic rugby skills while making new friends and, most importantly, having fun.

A number of Connacht Rugby players will be paying a visit to every camp, while the entire squad will be making the trip to Ballina RFC on Wednesday 11th July to meet the kids, members of the club and wider Ballina community.

Speaking at this morning’s launch at The Sportsground, Joe Gorham Domestic Rugby Manager at Connacht Rugby said:

“We are delighted to officially launch this year’s Connacht Rugby Summer Camps in conjunction with totalhealth Pharmacy. The Summer Camps are a key cornerstone of what we here at Connacht Rugby are all about. Through our ‘Grassroots to Green Shirts’ vision we want to get a rugby ball in the hands of every boy and girl in the province and have them experience the benefits of our great sport. We know that every child attending the Camps over the next six weeks will have a fantastic time. We are also thrilled to have totalhealth Pharmacy on board as our new official partner and we look forward to our partnership growing into the future.”

Ollie McGuinness, Director totalhealth Pharmacy Group, said:

“The totalhealth Pharmacy Group are delighted to have partnered with Connacht Rugby as the official sponsor of the Connacht Rugby Summer Camps happening in 18 locations throughout the province this summer. Similar to Connacht Rugby, totalhealth Pharmacy is all about supporting communities. Totalhealth Pharmacy has 30 member pharmacies in the Connacht area so the opportunity to partner with Connacht Rugby on this project was a win- win for us. We are excited and looking forward to see the partnership grow and the children having a great time at the Summer Camps.”

Registration is open at community.connachtrugby.ie at the cost of €85, and every child who attends will receive our brand new Connacht Rugby 1/4 Zip Top as well as a water bottle, rucksack and one junior ticket to a selected Connacht Rugby match next season at The Sportsground. Attendees are also in with a chance of winning a 2018/19 Connacht Rugby Season Ticket Membership, which goes to the lucky child who finds the golden ticket located in one random camp pack.

The Connacht Rugby Summer Camps will be held from 9.15am – 1.30pm at the following venues:

2nd – 6th July

Creggs RFC

Ballinasloe RFC

Sligo RFC

9th – 13th July

Ballina RFC

Corrib RFC

Carrick on Shannon RFC (located in Boyle Community College, Co. Roscommon)

NUIG RFC

16th – 20th July

Monivea RFC

Castlebar RFC

Gort RFC

23rd – 27th July

Westport RFC

Dunmore RFC

Galwegians RFC

6th – 10th August

Tuam RFC

Connemara RFC

Ballinrobe RFC

13th – 17th August

Buccaneers RFC

Loughrea RFC

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.

We finished our Challenge Cup Pool 5 campaign with an unbeaten record as Niyi Adeolokun scored a first-half hat-trick at The Sportsground.

 

The rout began in the very first minute as Adeolokun scored his first try after a chip over the top. Two minutes later, he went over for his second after a brilliant offload by Tiernan O’Halloran.

 

 

Two more tries were added before the 20th minute through Bundee Aki and O’Halloran. Great handling from the backs set up Adeolokun for his hat-trick on just 31 minutes and Matt Healy added a sixth two minutes later on his 100th appearance for the club. It was Healy’s 8th in the competition this season.

 

The second half was a quieter affair. Tom Farrell crossed the whitewash after 66 minutes and a penalty try five minutes from the end brought up the half century.

 

We have now won our last six home games in all competitions and finish Pool 5 unbeaten.

 

 

 

Tiernan O’Halloran talks to CRTV after an impressive 44-16 victory over Interpro rivals Ulster.

 

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