Two Guinness PRO14 fixtures due to take place in Italy in Rounds 14 and 15 have been postponed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the northern part of the country.
 
The Italian government has now extended restrictions on sporting events until April 3 and the latest travel alerts from the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advise against non-essential travel to certain regions of Italy, including Veneto and Emilia-Romagna.
 
Consequently, PRO14 Rugby has taken this action in order to protect the well-being of our participating clubs’ players, other staff and supporters, and provide some degree of certainty in an evolving situation. This decision is fully supported by the board of Celtic Rugby DAC.
 
The fixtures affected are:
 
Round 14: Benetton Rugby v Munster Rugby (originally scheduled for March 21)
Round 15: Zebre Rugby Club v Connacht Rugby (originally scheduled for March 28)
 
As none of these clubs are involved in EPCR competitions, PRO14 Rugby will aim to reschedule these matches on dates during the European weekends in April and May. PRO14 Rugby is currently engaged with EPCR to avoid any scheduling conflicts with European knock-out games.
 
Discussions are still on-going regarding the rescheduling of the postponed Round 13 fixtures – Zebre Rugby Club v Ospreys, and Benetton Rugby v Ulster Rugby.
 
As indicated on February 28 (click here), PRO14 Rugby has activated a live channel of communication with each of the Chief Medical Officers for each participating union who are providing the latest information, advice and requirements from national governments and health authorities in their respective territories.

Match Report courtesy of Pro14.org

Connacht  made a huge step towards the Guinness PRO14 Final Series with a 6-5 victory over Zebre.

Two penalties from Jack Carty separated the sides in a first half exemplified by some dogged defending from the hosts and when Mattia Bellini crossed with a powerful run just after the break, Connacht would have been fearing the worst.

A disallowed Connacht try with 25 minutes to go was followed by Zebre squandering two chances to take the lead from the tee as Andy Friend’s men consolidated third place in Conference A.

After a careless lineout from Zebre was stolen, Peter Robb earned a penalty for the Irish outfit early on with as brilliant break – the penalty was duly converted by the reliable Carty.

Connacht continued to attack with intensity and were rewarded once again when Carty slotted over another penalty.

Despite some fluid approach play, Carty’s ambitious pass out to the left wing was well intercepted by the Zebre defence some five yards from the try line as Connacht desperately searched for a first-half breakthrough.

However, it was the hosts who ended the half the stronger as they continued to blunt a typically rampant Connacht offence and carry out some speculative forays of their own.

The Italian side carried on where they left off after the break as some swift passing down the line allowed Mattia Bellini to drive over for his third try of the season to reduce the deficit to a single point.

Zebre’s resolve appeared to give Connacht a wake-up call, however, as they began to take control of the game and dominate possession.

After Robb eluded three Zebre defenders before offloading to Darragh Leader to dot down, it looked like the visitors had finally wore them down.

But upon review, the TMO ruled the initial line-breaking pass to Robb to have gone forward.

Having lost their first three lineouts of the game, Zebre turned the tables and stole one of their own deep in Connacht’s half – it was only some desperate defending from the visitors that held the ball up after it crossed the line.

A penalty on the hour presented Edoardo Padovani with a chance to give his side an unlikely lead, but his connection was poor as the ball sailed wide.

Guglielmo Palazzani had a second opportunity with just five minutes to go, but the pressure got the better of him.

 

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.

The Connacht squad trained in a wide variety of conditions this morning as preparations stepped up a gear for Saturday’s vital Guinness PRO14 clash with Zebre in Parma (k/o 5.30pm Irish time).
 
Andy Friend’s squad make the trip sitting in 3rd place in Conference A, with just points difference separating Connacht and the Cardiff Blues in the race for the playoffs and Heineken Champions Cup rugby.
 
Check out some of the best pics from this morning’s session at The Sportsground.
 

After a disappointing Challenge Cup exit over the weekend, all eyes are now firmly set on a pivotal final three fixtures in the Guinness PRO14 as Connacht aim to book a place in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

First up is Zebre this weekend in Parma, with Andy Friend’s side making the trip to Italy knowing a win would send them one step closer to the knockout stages.

Here’s everything you need to know about the clash.

When’s the game?

Kick-off at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi is at 5.30pm Irish time / 6.30pm Italian time this Saturday 6th April.

How’s our recent record against them?

The two sides last met in Round 2 of this year’s Championship when Connacht secured a bonus point 32-13 win at The Sportsground. Man-of-the-match Paul Boyle scored two tries while Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin and Niyi Adeolokun also got in on the act.


However Connacht have lost their last two trips to Parma in the past two seasons, so the squad will be hoping it’s third time lucky this time around.

What’s the state of play in the race for the playoffs?


Only a score difference of six points separates Connacht and Cardiff Blues in the race for the 3rd playoff spot in Conference A, with both sides sitting on 52 points. With the two teams meeting in Galway on Saturday week, Connacht know three wins from the final three games will guarantee a place in the quarter-finals. A playoff spot could also be sealed next week if Cardiff were to lose away to Munster this weekend and Connacht pick up wins in the next two weekends.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Friday when it will be named on connachtrugby.ie and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

How can I watch it?

There will be live TV coverage of the game on Eir Sport 1 with build-up beginning at 5pm. There will also be highlights on TG4 from 9.55pm.

Where can I buy tickets?

If you plan on heading over, please note that tickets are on sale directly from Zebre Rugby and can be bought HERE.

Match Preview from pro14rugby.org

Another crucial Conference A clash. This time we face Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi for the first time this season. We currently sit fifth with Zebre sixth in Conference A.

 

TV: TG4 from 1.10pm.
Twitter: Follow our live commentary from Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Twitter at #ZEBvCON
Match centre:
Follow in game stats through our match centre.

 

What’s at stake? Zebre’s comeback victory over Ulster in Round Five was the highlight in an otherwise tricky season, losing their last four league matches.

But a victory would trim the gap to Connacht who are six points ahead of the Italians in the standings.

Similarly, Connacht’s season has been marred by inconsistency but they have won two of their last three matches including impressive victories over Munster and the Toyota Cheetahs.

A win for Connacht could see them leapfrog Cardiff Blues in the table and trim the gap to third-placed Cheetahs

 

Team news (Zebre): The return of nine internationals to the Zebre squad should give them the boost they need to take on the Irish province.

There is also good news on the injury front with David Sisi and George Biagi return to the squad. Baigi will captain the side against Connacht.

 

Team news (Connacht): Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has included new signing Pita Ahki among his starting XV for the first time.

Keane has also going for a new half back pairing with Steve Crosbie lining up alongside Kieran Marmion at scrum half following his return from international duty. In the pack Shane Delahunt, who scored two tries against Cardiff, starts at hooker where he is flanked by Denis Buckley at loosehead and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.

 

Talking points: Head coach Kieran Keane said: “While we were disappointed not to beat Cardiff last week, I was proud of the boys and the way they battled to take two points from the game. In this competition it is really important to do well against teams in our conference.”
“We will face a big challenge against Zebre on Saturday. They have made it difficult against a lot of teams so far this season particularly when they are at home. We will need to be at our best to beat them.”

 

Key Battle: Giulio Bisegni v Tom Farrell

Giulio Bisegni has been a rock for the Zebre side so far this season and was impressive again in the defeat to Munster.

The centre dotted down in the 35th minute but couldn’t prevent a 36-19 defeat. However with internationals returning around him, Bisegni could be a key cog in the Zebre machine.

Tom Farrell has enjoyed a consistent run in the Connacht line up and has been impressive throughout the season.
The 24-year-old has more offloads than anyone else in the league and has also made 329 metres so far in this campaign.
Did you know? Zebre secured one of only three wins last season when they beat Connacht 25-22 the last time the Irish province travelled to Parma.

 

Key Stat: No player has more offloads in the Guinness PRO14 so far this season than Thomas Farrell (23).

 

Zebre: Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Giovanb, attista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi, Maxime Mbandà, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli
Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Cruze Ah-Nau, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, Jacopo Sarto, Guglielmo Palazzani, Serafin Bordoli, Ciaran Gaffney

 

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Steve Crosbie, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, John Muldoon
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Cillian Gallagher, Naulia Dawai, James Mitchell, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.

 

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
AR1: Sean Gallagher (IRFU) AR2: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR) TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)

 

We return to European action next weekend away to Brive followed by a return leg at home in the Sportsground.

 

 

 

Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has included new signing Pita Ahki among his starting XV to face Zebre on Saturday (K.O. 1:15pm Live on TG4). Ahki who came off the bench to make his debut against Cardiff last week, will make his first start for the province as they travel to Italy for the PRO14 clash.

 

The Connacht side features a new half back pairing with Steve Crosbie starting at out-half and Kieran Marmion back at scrum half following his return from international duty. In the pack Shane Delahunt, who scored two tries against Cardiff starts at hooker where he is flanked by Denis Buckley at loosehead and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.

 

Academy player and Sligo native Cillian Gallagher, who made his debut against Worcester in October, is named among the replacements. Ahead of the clash, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane, spoke about the importance of getting a result against the Italians: “While we were disappointed not to beat Cardiff last week, I was proud of the boys and the way they battled to take 2 points from the game. In this competition it is really important to do well against teams in our conference.”

“We will face a big challenge against Zebre on Saturday. They have made it difficult against a lot of teams so far this season particularly when they are at home. We will need to be at our best to beat them” added Keane.

 

 

#ZEBvCON

Kick-off 1.15pm (Irish Time):

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Steve Crosbie, Kieran Marmion,

(1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Cillian Gallagher, Naulia Dawai, James Mitchell, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.

 

 

Ahead of the trip to Italy this weekend for the Conference A clash against Zebre, KK and his coaching staff have been putting the squad through their paces.

 

The team for Saturday afternoon’s clash, at the Stadio Lanfranchi, will be named at noon on Friday at midday.

 

 

Our next home game will be on December 16th when attentions are back to consolidating our good start to the Challenge Cup. Tickets are still available.

 

 

The Connacht Rugby medical team have issued a squad update ahead of the PRO14 clash away to Zebre on Saturday 02nd of December (K.O. 1:15pm – Live TG4)

 

Prop:
Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.

 

Lock:
Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Back Row:
James Connolly will reintegrate into training with the squad this week following his recovery from an ankle injury.

Eoin McKeon injured his hamstring versus Cardiff and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

Jake Heenan injured his shoulder versus Cardiff and is awaiting the results of a scan to determine the extent of the injury.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return to training in early December.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Centre:
Craig Ronaldson is continuing his recovery from a calf injury and will return to training in early December.

Peter Robb will integrate into training with the squad this week following his hip surgery in September.

 

Back Three:
Stacey Ili will integrate into training with the squad this week following a recent shoulder injury.

Rory Scholes is continuing his recovery following the removal of his appendix.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery

Guinness PRO12: Zebre 25-22 Connacht

Connacht’s Champions Cup qualification ambitions were dealt a blow after they were beaten 25-22 by Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in the Guinness PRO12 on Saturday afternoon.

It was a first ever victory for Zebre over the province as the Italian side ran out deserving winners to halt Connacht’s recent run of good from that had seen them win four of their last five.

On a warm day in Parma, skipper John Muldoon won the coin toss and chose for Connacht to play with the sun at their backs in the opening half.

That tactic paid immediate dividends as Connacht ran the ball from their own 22 in the opening minute with full-back Josh Rowland, making his first start, offloading for winger Stacey Ili to score the first try.

John Cooney missed the tricky conversion and Zebre were soon off the mark thanks to a Carlo Canna penalty on eight minutes.

The injured Ili was forced off after 15 minutes with replacement Craig Ronaldson making an immediate impact as he crossed a minute later after combing with Danie Poolman.

Cooney’s conversion was good and Connacht led 12-3 after a bright start.

A third try very nearly followed moments later as Connacht went for the corner off a penalty with Andrew Browne held up over the line.

A Connacht knock-on and subsequent high tackle allowed Zebre relieve the pressure and they took advantage of more indiscipline to kick themselves deep into Connacht territory.

The Italians then mauled their way over the line with Derick Minnie credited with the try and Canna’s conversion made it 12-10 after 27 minutes.

A second Canna three-pointer after a scrum penalty nine minutes before the interval gave Zebre the lead for the first time and despite massive Connacht pressure before the break, the hosts defended manfully to lead at half-time.

The wind was really in Zebre sails when they touched down within a minute of the restart as Kayle van Zyl did superbly to field a high kick with Tommaso Boni eventually touching down in the left corner.

Canna missed the conversion and Connacht responded immediately as Cooney kicked his first penalty on 47 minutes to reduce the deficit and make it 18-15.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Connacht were primed to snatch the win with Zebre giving away a number of penalties and Minnie sent to the sin bin as a result.

However, that was the moment when Zebre struck the killer blow as they stole a Connacht lineout deep in their own half and stunned the visitors with a length of the field try finished off by Edoardo Padovani.

Marcello Violi’s conversion was good and Connacht trailed 25-15 with just 13 minutes remaining.

Zebre went down to 14 again when Matteo Pratichetti was yellow-carded on 74 minutes as Connacht threw everything at the hosts.

The visitors were finally rewarded when Rowland scored his first Connacht try in the corner with two minutes remaining and Ronaldson added the conversion.

It was too little too late however as the hosts held on for a deserved victory.

Connacht: Josh Rowland; Danie Poolman, Tom Farrell (Eoin Griffin, 68), Bundee Aki, Stacey Ili (inj Craig Ronalson, 12); Jack Carty, John Cooney (Caolin Blade, 48); Denis Buckley (Ivan Soroka, 76), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan, 55), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 70); Quinn Roux (James Cannon, 69); Andrew Browne; Sean O’Brien (Eoghan Masterson, 57), Eoin McKeon, John Muldoon (captain).

Related

Connacht beaten in Belfast

Target date selected for Guinness PRO14 restart
GuinnessPro14

Target date selected for Guinness PRO14 restart

3 weeks ago
Guinness PRO14 announce partnership with CVC Capital Partners
GuinnessPro14

Guinness PRO14 announce partnership with CVC Capital Partners

2 months ago
Indefinite Suspension For Guinness PRO14 Season
GuinnessPro14

Indefinite Suspension For Guinness PRO14 Season

4 months ago