Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that 21 players have re-signed for the province ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In all 19 players from the existing Professional squad have renewed deals for next season while a further two players, Oran McNulty and Cian Prendergast, have been promoted from the Connacht Academy.

Today’s announcement includes four Irish internationals – Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan – while joint-leading Guinness PRO14 try scorer Alex Wootton has signed on a permanent contract having joined on loan from Munster last summer.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“I am delighted to see so many of our current crop of players sign on for another season. This is still a very challenging time for everyone in Irish Rugby so to have them commit to Connacht Rugby again says it all about the belief we have as a group to continue the progress we’re making.

17 of the 21 players were once part of the Connacht Academy, and in that group we have a mix of established Irish internationals, experienced players within the province and plenty of young players still in the early stages of their careers.

I have been very impressed by Cian Prendergast and Oran McNulty, and their first Professional contracts is the culmination of years of work from grassroots level to where they are now. Congratulations not just to them but their parents, coaches and all the other volunteers who helped them along the way.

We are continuing to shape the squad for next season, with further discussions ongoing, and supporters should expect more positive news in the weeks and months ahead.”

Connacht Rugby’s retention and recruitment remains ongoing and further announcements will be made in due course.

CONFIRMED NEW CONTRACTS FOR 2021-22

Finlay BEALHAM
Paul BOYLE
Denis BUCKLEY
Matthew BURKE
Jack CARTY
Shane DELAHUNT
Ultan DILLANE
Jordan DUGGAN
Conor FITZGERALD
Dave HEFFERNAN
Eoghan MASTERSON
Sean MASTERSON
Oran MCNULTY
Niall MURRAY
Conor OLIVER
John PORCH
Cian PRENDERGAST
Colm REILLY
Peter SULLIVAN
Gavin THORNBURY
Alex WOOTTON

The Connacht management team have again drafted the three representatives in the Ireland Six Nations squad straight into the starting team for tomorrow’s crucial Guinness PRO14 interpro away to Munster (k/o 7.35pm).
 
Bundee Aki is retained at centre following his release from Ireland duty last weekend, while Dave Heffernan and Ultan Dillane both start at hooker and second row respectively.
 
In all there are 7 changes from the side that secured a last-minute win at Benetton. Denis Buckley comes into an experienced front row with Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while Gavin Thornbury in in the the second row alongside Dillane.
 
Conor Oliver starts at openside flanker to face his former club, joining captain Jarrad Butler and Paul Boyle to complete the pack.
 
There’s a new look half-back pairing of Caolin Blade and Jack Carty, while there are also new faces on the wings with Matt Healy and John Porch coming into the starting line-up. 12, 13 and 15 are unchanged from the Benetton win with Aki, Tom Daly and Tiernan O’Halloran all retained.
 
In all 9 of the starting 15 are Connacht centurions as the side look to extend an all-time club record of 5 straight wins away from home.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says the importance of the fixture is not lost on the squad.
 
“We know exactly what we need to do tomorrow night in Limerick. There has been barely any talk of securing Champions Cup qualification because our first objective has always been 1st place in the Conference B, so all our focus since last weekend has been on getting a win that gives us that fighting chance of a final spot.”
 
Regarding his team selection, Friend added:
 
“Thankfully we haven’t picked up any major injury worries in our last two games so we’ve a pretty healthy squad apart from our long-term absentees. We’ve named a very experienced starting XV but we’ve made sure to also reward those who showed good form in our last few games. Overall we’re in a positive place and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
 
Ahead of the game all Connacht players and management returned negative results in the latest round of PCR testing.
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Friday 5th March, Thomond Park, kick-off 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (189)
14. John Porch (33)
13. Tom Daly (40)
12. Bundee Aki (108)
11. Matt Healy (145)
10. Jack Carty (151)
9. Caolin Blade (124)
1. Denis Buckley (194)
2. Dave Heffernan (138)
3. Finlay Bealham (152)
4. Ultan Dillane (108)
5. Gavin Thornbury (52)
6. Jarrad Butler (68) (C)
7. Conor Oliver (14)
8. Paul Boyle (52)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (92)
17. Matthew Burke (19)
18. Jack Aungier (11)
19. Niall Murray (11)
20. Eoghan Masterson (104)
21. Kieran Marmion (178)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (4)
23. Alex Wootton (15)

Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan will all start for Connacht in tomorrow’s crucial inter-conference clash with Cardiff Blues at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
With 6 points separating the two sides between 2nd and 3rd in Conference B, the Connacht management team have drafted the trio straight into the starting team for tomorrow’s clash.
 
Jarrad Butler returns to captain the side from openside flanker, with Eoghan Masterson and Paul Boyle forming the rest of the back row. Dillane is partnered by Gavin Thornbury in the second row, while Heffernan is joined by props Jordan Duggan and Finlay Bealham to complete the pack.
 
Duggan will make his first start for the province with his 7 previous appearances coming off the bench.
 
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty start at 9 and 10 respectively, while Bundee Aki forms an exciting centre partnership with Tom Daly. John Porch continues his run of starting every game this season, forming a back three with wingers Matt Healy and Alex Wootton.
 
Tiernan O’Halloran, who picked up some game-time for the Eagles last week, is named among the replacements having last played against Ulster during the Christmas interpros.
 
This week all Connacht players and management returned negative results in the latest round of PCR testing.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“It’s great to welcome Dave, Ultan and Bundee back into the fold, and they’re re-joining an already healthy group of players. We had tough news for Quinn Roux and Peter Robb this week but overall we’re in a good spot and that’s allowed us to pick a squad based on form.”
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
“Tomorrow marks the start of a block of games that will ultimately define our season. We have a great opportunity to keep the pressure on Munster at the top while opening some daylight between ourselves and the chasing pack. We know our home form isn’t where it should be so this is our opportunity to put that right”.
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS CARDIFF BLUES
Saturday 20th February, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (31)
14. Alex Wootton (13)
13. Tom Daly (38)
12. Bundee Aki (106)
11. Matt Healy (144)
10. Jack Carty (150)
9. Caolin Blade (122)
1. Jordan Duggan (7)
2. Dave Heffernan (137)
3. Finlay Bealham (150)
4. Ultan Dillane (107)
5. Gavin Thornbury (50)
6. Eoghan Masterson (102)
7. Jarrad Butler (66) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (50)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (90)
17. Denis Buckley (192)
18. Jack Aungier (10)
19. Oisin Dowling (1)
20. Abraham Papali’i (6)
21. Kieran Marmion (176)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (3)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (187)

By John O’Sullivan

 

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to bring an aggressive line speed and accurate kicking game in order to beat the Ospreys this coming Sunday in the Guinness PRO14.

 

Originally scheduled for November, the clash with the Welshmen will now take place at 3 pM on Sunday at the Sportsground, and Friend, whose team sit second in conference B,  is wary of the offensive threat of the Welsh region.

 

Praising the impact the Ospreys’ coach, Toby Booth, has had on their attack, the Australian believes that the Westerners will have to counteract their potent attacking game with strong defensive line speed.

 

”That line speed for us is really important,” Friend said.

 

“They do have a, with Toby Booth coming in this year, healthy attack. Toby comes from Quins(Harlequins) and London Irish and Bath and I have worked against Toby many years ago and you know he wants to throw that ball around. They’re trying to play, so that line speed is important to us.

 

The head coach also confirmed that Connacht will be looking to get the upper hand at the set-piece, highlighting the excellent work forwards coach Jimmy Duffy has done with the pack and, in particular, the defensive line out and how the Westerners can use it as an attacking weapon.

 

“The other important part to us is the way we kick,” the former Australian sevens coach said.

 

“They have got a pretty dangerous back three, so we reckon an area we’ll be able to get an advantage over them is our line out. Our line out defence has been superb this year, so we won’t be afraid to put the ball off the field,  rather than give it to their back three, and try to challenge their line out from there.”

 

Friend, meanwhile, said that the Connacht squad have benefited from a week off. After narrowly falling to a defeat to Munster two weekends ago, the Sportsgrond team didn’t have a game last weekend and the head coach is optimistic that they can utilize this freshness in the clash with the Ospreys.

 

“I said to a few of the boys that I saw this morning, ‘as much as I like you blokes, it was nice not seeing you for a week’,” the Canberra native joked.

 

”It was the break we probably all needed. I’m not going to say we had a break because there’s still a lot going on, but a change in routine. People bounced back in this morning and there’s a spring in the step and we’re looking forward to what this weekend brings us.”

 

Elsewhere, second row Ultan Dillane says he is enjoying his rugby and he is concentrating on a strong end to the season with Connacht.

 

The 27-year-old has performed consistently for the Westerners’ this season and has been part of the Irish international squad, where he brought his cap total up to 17.

 

But the Kerry native isn’t focusing on the upcoming Six Nations squad and is keeping his mind on playing as well as he can for the western province, which, he is confident, will lead to him being included in more national squads.

 

“I’m trying to keep my head with Connacht and I think the way it is is if you play well enough then you’ll get your merit after that,” the Connacht academy graduate said.

 

“You can’t be thinking too far ahead, cause that’s what will really wreck you if things don’t go well. I am kinda more focused on what’s in front of me right now and that’s the Ospreys this weekend.”

 

Dillane also praised the leadership qualities of the squad and said that he has been impressed with how the players have dealt with the adversity brought on by covid, especially with the rescheduling of games.

 

Several players, including Eoghan Masterson, Quinn Roux and Paul Boyle, have lead the Westerners out as captain this season and the Irish international feels that the squad, as a whole, have learned from this.

 

“We’ve had numerous different captains this year and everyone has learned a little bit from that. Everyone has had a similar message like that it’s just being moment focused. There are so many leaders in this squad and I feel we don’t panic over anything anymore, because of how weird the year has been and it is kinda refreshing as well.”

 

 

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)

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)

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht 14-20 Scarlets

 

Connacht fell to a narrow defeat in their GuinnessPRO14 conference B clash with the Scarlets at the Sportsground.

 

Despite scoring two tries, through home debutant Abraham Papali’i and Ultane Dillane as well as two conversions from Jack Carty, the hosts came up just short as the visitors — thanks to a brace of tries from winger Ryan Conbeer, a try from scrum half Dane Blacker and five points from the boot of fly-half Dan Jones — edged a physical encounter.

 

With the wind at their backs, the visitors started on the front foot and opened the scoring after just five minutes. An enterprising backline move — with Guinness PRO14 man of the match Johnny McNicholl heavily involved — saw winger Conbeer cross for a try in the right hand corner. Jones’ conversion, from a tough angle, drifted wide.

 

Connacht responded well to the concession of a score and had a try of their own not long after. A series of hard carries — with Shane Delahunt and Tom Daly making big yardage with their efforts — gave the hosts field position in the Scarlets 22. The ball was then worked to Papali’i and the New Zealander marked his home debut with a try as he powerfully smashed over from close range. The conversion was a formality for Carty and the Westerners took the lead for the first time in the game at 7-5.

 

To their credit, the Welshmen came back strongly and Conbeer had his second try after McNicholl’s break and subsequent offload gave the 21 year old the chance to touch down in the corner. The conversion fell wide from Jones, but he made amends soon after with a penalty and Scarlets held their 13-7 lead going into the interval.

 

Connacht started the second half with ambition and almost had a try when John Porch’s excellent high ball fielding and run brought the Australian within a few inches of scoring before he was bundled into touch. Paul Boyle, after a brilliant run and kick saw him advance the Westerners from their 22 into the Scarlets’, also came close to a try but the away team managed to fend off the attack and bundle the back row into touch.

 

Encouraged, the home team kept probing, but they conceded their third try when an overcooked kick from a strike move saw the visitors counter and scrum half Blacker ran an intelligent trail line to field a pass and run over to score. Jones made no mistakes with the conversion and the visitors found themselves 20-7 to the good.

 

The hosts didn’t relent in their intensity and kept searching for their second try and they almost had it when Daly’s clever line saw him break through and feed Matt Healy in the 22. Bearing down on the try line, the Irish international was brilliantly tackled by Scarlets captain Steff Hughes, causing a knock on, and the Welsh team escaped unscathed on the scoreboard.

 

Connacht wouldn’t have to wait much longer to register their second try, however, when Ultan Dilllane — in his last piece of action before being replaced by Eoghan Masterson — muscled over from close range. Carty had no issues adding the extras and the home team brought themselves back within touching distance at 14-20.

 

The hosts kept on the attack, but every effort was denied by strong Scarlets defence and the Welshmen held on for the win.

Connacht team:

(15-9)

John Porch
Alex Wootton
Sammy Arnold
Tom Daly
Matt Healy
Jack Carty
Colm Reilly

(8-1)

Abraham Papali’i
Jarrad Butler (C)
Paul Boyle
Gavin Thornbury
Ultane Dillane
Conor Kenny
Shane Delahunt
Paddy McAllister

 

Replacements: Denis Buckley for Paddy McAllister, Jack Aungier for Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson for Ultan Dillane, Conor Oliver for Abraham Papali’i, Kieran Marmion for Colm Reilly, Tom Farrell for Sammy Arnold.

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.”

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.

Irish internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan have both been included in the Connacht squad to face the Southern Kings in Round 13 of the Guinness PRO14 this Sunday in Port Elizabeth (k/o 1pm Irish time, 3pm local time).
 
The pair were both released from the Ireland camp following the postponement of the Six Nations tie with Italy, and duly met up with the squad for the one-match trip to South Africa.
 
Dillane starts in the second row alongside Joe Maksymiw with Heffernan named among the replacements.
 
In all there are six changes from the side that lost to Edinburgh last weekend.
 
Paddy McAllister is drafted back into the front row alongside Shane Delahunt, while there’s also a start for prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy following an ankle injury to Finlay Bealham.
 
The back row is unchanged for the third straight game with Jarrad Butler captaining the side at number 8, with flankers Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a alongside him.
 
Caolin Blade comes back into the starting side to partner Jack Carty in the half-back positions, while there’s also a change at centre where Tom Daly is named alongside Kyle Godwin.
 
The final swap comes on the wing where Connacht’s record try-scorer Matt Healy makes up a back three with John Porch and Tiernan O’Halloran.
 
Commenting ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Andy Friend says everyone is keen to put the disappointment of last weekend behind them:
 
“We didn’t get the result we wanted in Edinburgh, so this week has been all about ensuring we get another win on the board. The Kings are a dangerous side especially at home so we will have to be at our very best.”
 
Regarding his team selection, Friend added:
 
“We’ve been able to call on two international footballers in Dave and Ultan which is a nice boost for us. This mini-block of three games is key for us so I believe we have named a squad that can get the job done on Sunday and finish on a high before the short break.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS (SUNDAY 1 MARCH 2020 @ NELSON MANDELA BAY STADIUM, PORT ELIZABETH)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade.
(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (c).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Robb.

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