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Andy Friend explains new coaching setup

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Ahead of Saturday’s URC opener against Ulster (k/o 7.35pm), Director of Rugby Andy Friend has explained the reasoning behind the restructured coaching ticket announced this summer.
 
After four years as Head Coach, Friend moves to a new DOR role while Pete Wilkins – now in his sixth season at the club – becomes Head Coach after a year as Senior Coach.
 
There are changes among the rest of the coaches too. After assisting Wilkins in attack last season, Mossy Lawler now takes primary responsibility for Attack & Skills. With Wilkins focussing more on defence, Colm Tucker is now coaching the scrum & contact skills. Forwards coach Dewald Senekal remains responsible for the lineout and maul.
 
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game, Andy Friend went into detail on what brought about the changes.
 
“When I first came into this job, one of my messages to the players was ‘know what your weapon is and focus on your weapon, which is your strength’. I’ve been a big believer in that”, he explained.
 
“For lots of different reasons, I probably went away from that last year. When we got the new coaching structure in last year, we were fitting the coaching structure around the people that we had in it.
 
“Upon reflection of it, we paused and went ‘is that actually our weapon? Is that all of our strengths?’ The longer I go with my coaching, I know what my strength is. My strength is working one-on-one with people. Giving people support and challenging them. To give them an opportunity to try and grow.”
 
Friend says both the coaches and players are already seeing the benefits.
 
“I moved into a Director of Rugby role and I did that knowing that I’ve got four really good coaches alongside me, who I need to open up space to. It was just sitting down saying ‘you know what, we did this for a reason last year. We can be better again if we all just zone in on what we’re really good at’.
 
“After nine weeks, I can tell you it’s a really happy coaching group. People are doing what they love doing and I think that’s going to pay real dividends for us going forward.”
 
With Connacht playing Challenge Cup rugby this year, the Director of Rugby says the squad have a simple aim for both competitions.
 
“It’s simple, we want to make the play-offs in both, that’s our target. URC has to be our bread and butter because if we can make URC play-offs we know we are in Champions Cup next year.
 
“That’s a challenge that we get into, that’s the competition that we want to get into. We weren’t successful last year in getting into that so we want to make sure we make the play-offs of the URC. And if we can go further than that we will wait until we get to that time, we can discuss that. That is just the minimum there.
 
“Then for Challenge Cup last year was our first year making it to the knockout stages of Champions Cup, we want to do the same this year in the Challenge Cup and go from there.”

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


URC

Additional terracing confirmed for October interpros

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Following huge demand for tickets, Connacht Rugby can confirm that temporary terracing will be installed for both BKT United Rugby Championship interpros against Munster and Leinster next month.

The game against Munster on Friday 7th October is set to be a momentous occasion as the club plays its first fixture on the new state-of-the-art, artificial surface.

Just seven days later neighbours Leinster visit the West of Ireland, in what will be another crucial game in the context of the overall season.

The terraces will be located at the Bohermore and College Road ends of the ground, bringing the capacity of The Sportsground up to 8,129.

Tickets for both games are on sale now at connachtrugby.ie/tickets, and supporters are urged to act quickly to avoid disappointment.

We are also now offering our fans a special October Interpros bundle. This bundle will guarantee your place in The Sportsground for these can’t-miss October games.

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


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URC

Academy Update | September 2022

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We spoke to Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Manager Ian Costello last week for the first update of the new season from the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy.

New recruits Fionn Gibbons, Darragh McSweeney, Evan O’Connell, Jack Oliver, Ruadhan Quinn and Kieran Ryan have all hit the ground running and seen game-time at various levels over the past number of weeks.

19-year-old second year Academy member and UCC clubman Edwin Edogbo made his senior debut against Dragons on Sunday becoming the first Cobh Pirates player to line out for Munster in the professional era. Edwin missed all of last year due to an achilles injury but impressed in pre-season and was rewarded with a debut in Wales.

Hear the latest from Costello below.

Munster A v Connacht A last week…

“It was a good run-out. They had played a game the week before and our game against Ulster had been cancelled so they were a bit more clinical.

“We dominated possession and territory but they were more accurate, we were a little bit rusty at key times but it was a good exercise overall.”

New recruits…

“Kieran Ryan and Darragh McSweeney, the two props, are getting on really well. Ruadhan Quinn obviously hit the ground running with 78 minutes against Gloucester in pre-season, which was great for him to get a senior run-out. Evan O’Connell was released back to the Munster U19s and he played the Interpros with them and they won two out of three.

“Jack Oliver played his first game for Munster in a long time against Connacht A and he had a club run-out with Garryowen the week before. It was his first time playing in seven months so it was great to have him back as well. Fionn Gibbons had his first run-out since joining us against Connacht too.”

Academy players Tony Butler, Edwin Edogbo, Cian Hurley, Daniel Okeke, Conor Phillips getting game-time in pre-season games…

“It’s fantastic. And to have so many players away with Emerging Ireland now, it gives our lads the chance to push for a squad spot in the URC for the next three games.

“We’ll be stretched a bit at senior level with the 10 guys selected for Emerging Ireland so we’d be hopeful there will be a couple of Academy players in the mix over the next couple of weeks and anyone who isn’t in the mix will be playing with their club.

“On the injury front, Patrick Campbell (toe) was injured with the Ireland U20s over the summer and he’s a couple of weeks away.

“Daniel Okeke tweaked his hamstring in the A game last weekend so hopefully he won’t be out for too long.”

AIL season kicking off this weekend…

“The players will all go back to their clubs this week and hopefully the majority of the lads will be playing in AIL round one, if they’re not involved in the URC.

“We have been drip-feeding the lads back with their clubs so a number of guys have been training with their clubs over the last few Tuesdays so we try to keep them connected to their club as much as possible.”

Summer training camps for underage sides…

“We had a residential camp in UL over the summer. We put a lot of time, effort and resources into a three-week residential camp. We brought 15 under-20 players to train with the U19s. The U20s don’t have an Interprovincial tournament so they’re essentially the guys we’re looking at to move onto the next level. Guys like Daniel Hurley trained with them, he’s back from a cruciate injury, Shay McCarthy who had gone away with the Ireland U20s…these are the kind of guys we’re looking at long-term as well.

“We brought that group of 15 to train with 30 U19s so that was class. Off the back of those training camps, the Munster U18s won the Interpros, the U19s won two out of three so there’s a lot of good players emerging out of that and it was good to validate it with winning an Interpro as well.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Leo Cullen issues injury update

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Leo Cullen has issued an injury update ahead of Friday’s BKT United Rugby Championship game in the Kingspan Stadium against Ulster Rugby (KO: 7.35pm – live on BBC NI, RTÉ, Premier Sports and URC TV).

There was positive news for Joe McCarthy (ankle) and Jordan Larmour (knee) who both came through the game against Benneton Rugby with no issues after their return from injury.

McCarthy will however be unavailable for the game on Friday as he has joined up with the rest of the Emerging Ireland squad that departed yesterday for Bloemfontein ahead of their participation in the Toyota Challenge.

Jamison Gibson-Park missed the game on Friday in the RDS Arena through illness but is expected to train as normal this week.

Cullen also gave an update on Ciarán Frawley who was withdrawn from the game against Benetton Rugby early in the second half with a shoulder injury. As a result he will now miss the Emerging Ireland tour and will instead be assessed by the Leinster Rugby medical team.

Will Connors will also be further assessed this week for a back injury as he was withdrawn in the second half as a precaution.

Another player to be further assessed this week is James Ryan who was a late withdrawal from the match day squad on Friday with a minor hamstring injury sustained in the captain’s run on Thursday.

There was some positive news for Liam Turner who is nearing the completion of his rehabilitation for a toe injury and hopes to start integrating back into team training this week.

Finally, Cullen confirmed that Caelan Doris will miss the game against Ulster Rugby at the weekend. Doris was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will now enter the Graduated Return to Play Protocols.

Cullen had no update on Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee).

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby


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