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Connacht Rugby announce signings of Ben O’Donnell and Abraham Papali’i

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Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signings of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Bay of Plenty Number 8 Abraham Papali’i.
 
The pair will link up with the squad before the start of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.
 
Ben O’Donnell joins from the Australian Sevens programme, having played 95 matches for his country since he was handed his debut in 2017 under Andy Friend. The 24-year old went on to score 47 tries in that time and has been a key figure in their progression through the World Rugby Seven Series over the past three seasons.
 
O’Donnell was voted Australian Sevens Player of the year in 2018 and subsequently went on to be the first Australian player ever nominated for the World Sevens Player of the Year.
 
New Zealander Abraham Papali’i arrives from Bay of Plenty where he was a key member of the squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year. The Auckland-born duel code player started his Rugby Union career with North Harbour before being recruited into the New Zealand Warriors (Rugby League) pathway. In 2015 Papali’i signed a two year contract with the Sydney Roosters of the Australian National Rugby League (NRL).
 
Following his time with the Roosters, Papali’i joined Lézignan Sangliers in the premier French Rugby League competition before the 6’4” number 8 returned to New Zealand and successfully restarted his Rugby Union career with Bay of Plenty.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says today’s announcement is a significant boost ahead of the return to rugby.
 
“I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby.
 
I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.
 
Abraham is a powerful number 8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.”

 
Friend expressed his excitement about the announcement and what the squad can achieve in the upcoming season.
 
“Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago and we are delighted to eventually be able to share this exciting news with all of our supporters today.
 
These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our Academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield.
 
We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success in what is going to be a really exciting season.”

Press Release from Connacht Rugby


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Match Report: Vodacom Bulls 28-14 Connacht

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Another tough day at the office for Connacht after a disappointing 28-14 defeat to the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

It’s a third defeat in-a-row for the Western province, having already lost their opening two matches which were both away to Ulster and the defending BKT URC Champions Stormers.

Coming up against the Bulls was always going to be a tough test and the home side looked to show their power early but were denied by the TMO after mauling over the try line where Johan Grobbelaar’s try was ruled out.

Not long after though, Connacht looked to attack and stretch the home sides defence but there was one pass too many when John Porch under pressure by Canan Moodie tried to set Oran McNulty off only for the ball to be misplaced, ending up with Bulls full-back Kurt-Lee Arendse who ran from his own half where no one could catch him from scoring the opening try.

The Bulls widened their advantage on the ten minute mark, second-row Walt Steenkamp powered his way to an inch of the try line where scrum-half Zak Burger finished off to make it Bulls 14-0 Connacht.

As the game went on Connacht started to get their hands more on the ball but couldn’t find a break through with some errors creeping into their game as they looked to claw back the lead.

Nearing 20 minutes on the clock, the Bulls were reduced to 14-men when Marco van Staden was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. Despite having the extra man Connacht couldn’t make the numbers count.

Connacht showed plenty of glimpses of what they can do but the Bulls defence were ready to suffocate any danger that came their way.

The half came to an end with the Bulls getting their third try of the game, Marcell Coetzee bashing his way over the line, Goosen adding the extra two points to leave it 21-0 at the break.

Connacht showed a lot more promise and composure on the ball in the second forty but it was the Bulls who got the opening score of the half when Connacht were turned over. From the attack, second-row Ruan Nortje punched through a gap in the Connacht defence where he released Burger for his second try of the game. Another conversion by Goosen made it 28-0.

As the half went on the home side saw two further yellow cards, a high tackle from Goosen on Kieran Marmion just after 50mins and then Jan-Hendrick Wessels for a late hit on David Hawkshaw in the 65th minute.

Playing with an extra man Connacht took advantage, tries from Jack Aungier, his second of the season which both came in South Africa. Aungier showed great strength to power over from close range. Hawkshaw converted with ten minutes to go.

Hawkshaw making his first start for the club got his own try when blocking down Chris Smith’s attempted clearance, he gathered the loose ball before going under the posts. The conversion made it 28-14 to the home team which would be the final result.

Up next for Connacht is a massive Interprovincial-derby at home to Munster.

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


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Dweba on DHL Stormers debut against Edinburgh

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Springbok hooker Joseph Dweba will make his DHL Stormers debut in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against Edinburgh at DHL Stadium on Saturday.

Dweba’s inclusion is one of six changes to the team for the encounter with the Scottish outfit, which kicks off at 14h00 on Saturday. CLICK HERE to buy your match tickets now.

His fellow Springboks Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie and Salmaan Moerat all come straight into the starting line-up, with Herschel Jantjies among the replacements and Marvin Orie taking the captaincy.

There are two positional switches in the backline, with Dan du Plessis at outside centre and Suleiman Hartzenberg shifting to the wing in place of the injured Seabelo Senatla, while up front Neethling Fouche comes in at tighthead prop.

DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson said that the team is looking forward to their first match at DHL Stadium since the Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final last season.

“It is great to have a few of our top players back from national duty and they have all slotted in seamlessly this week.

“We are all looking forward to getting out there at DHL Stadium in an early game which should be a great occasion for everyone,” he said.

DHL Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Junior Pokomela, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Sacha Mngomezulu.

Content & Images from – Stormers Rugby


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Reed to start clash with Sharks

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Fly half Will Reed will make his first appearance of the season when Dragons RFC face Cell C Sharks in the BKT United Rugby Championship at Rodney Parade on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm).

The Men of Gwent make a total of three changes to the side that defeated Munster Rugby in the first game of the season on home soil last weekend.

Reed is the only change to the back line, with JJ Hanrahan ruled out of the game as a precaution after picking up a knock in training. Hanrahan is expected to be fit for Round 4.

Lock Ben Carter is recalled to partner captain Will Rowlands in the second row. Carter’s return sees George Nott move into the back row to occupy the blindside flanker jersey.

The final change is a first start of the season for Wales international hooker Elliot Dee, with Bradley Roberts moving to the bench.

The return of lock Joe Davies is the only other change among the replacements.

Head Coach Dai Flanagan said: “Sharks will be physical and there is a lot of quality in their side. We need to make sure we match the physicality they bring and stay true to ourselves.

“It was a big result and performance by us against Munster last time out. Now we must replicate it, match it and ensure we get better week by week.

“We need to step forward as a squad again and if we you stay true to ourselves, work hard, we’ll be in this fight together.”

Dragons RFC: Angus O’Brien, Rio Dyer, Sio Tomkinson, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Will Reed, Rhodri Williams; Aki Seiuli, Elliot Dee, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ben Carter, Will Rowlands (c), George Nott, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Rob Evans, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, Aaron Wainwright, Lewis Jones, Max Clark, Jordan Williams.

Unavailable: Leon Brown (neck), Sam Davies (knee), Ollie Griffiths (back), JJ Hanrahan (knock), Rhodri Jones (calf), Harri Keddie (ankle), Aneurin Owen (hamstring).

Dragons RFC can confirm lock Huw Taylor and back row Lennon Greggains are set for loan spells in the English Championship.

Taylor, 26, has moved to Goldington Road to link-up with Bedford Blues while Greggains, 23, will have a spell with Hartpury University RFC to gain valuable game time.

Greggains joins team-mate Ellis Shipp, 25, who has been on loan at Hartpury this month. The hooker has started two of the club’s opening three league fixtures.

Content & Images from – Dragons Rugby


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