This Saturday Connacht Rugby begin their BKT United Rugby Championship away to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium (k/o 7.35pm).

It’s the beginning of a new season which brings plenty of excitement and opportunities for players to build on the previous season, one of those players being Gavin Thornbury.

The big second-row underwent shoulder surgery in the summer of 2021 and was only expected to be sidelined for a period of up to 12 weeks. However, a series of setbacks delayed his return to competitive action and it wasn’t until the start of April against Benetton when he made that return to action.

After a full preseason under his belt, Thornbury spoke about how he’s feeling ahead of the new season kicking off.

“I feel really good and it was great to get the full preseason under my belt”

“After the season I had last season, just to be out on the pitch and training every day is what I want”

“Preseason has been really productive but at the same time long, but we all can’t wait to get the season started now”

Seven new players have come to The Sportsground this season, one of those being Josh Murphy from Leinster, a player Thornbury knows well and hopes to see bring the aggression and skill to Connacht which he produced so many times while playing for Leinster.

“I’ve played with and against Josh, he’s a very good athlete, extremely intelligent and has that edge about him”

“A few weeks ago against Sale Sharks he showed what he’s about and no doubt will want to build on that”

This summer saw Irish Rugby create history with a historic series win in New Zealand against the All Blacks. Connacht Rugby were represented by Bundee Aki, Cian Prendergast, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Mack Hansen, Pete Wilkins and Robbie Fox on that winning tour. Thornbury spoke of the impact that win has had on the whole squad.

“You get an energy from seeing them do well but its the learning what they bring back that’s the biggest thing”

“Pete going over and getting to see how the international side coach is a huge benefit for us and you can see he’s grown as a coach from it”

“When the lads came back they started drip feeding information straight away as to how we can improve, a brilliant experience for them but now as a group we’re gaining from that”

It’s an interprovincial test in Belfast to start the 2022/23 season and one every Connacht player is looking forward to.

“Its a tough opener for any team playing in Belfast, but it’s an exciting challenge going up there and one we can’t wait for”

“We believe in ourselves, our coaches and our style of play so its time to show what we’re about”

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