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
Connacht squad to face Emirates Lions named
The Connacht management team have named the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s BKT United Rugby Championship tie with the Emirates Lions at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
Having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle through injury, Jack Carty returns to captain the side. The out-half could make history in the game – he needs six points to equal Eric Elwood’s all-time points scoring record of 1152 points for the province.
Scrum-half Caolin Blade is named alongside him while Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are named at inside and outside-centre respectively. Tiernan O’Halloran lines out at full back for his 215th Connacht appearance with John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen on the wings.
The pack sees the Murray brothers Darragh and Niall paired together in the second row, while props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier come in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt. Josh Murphy moves from the second row to blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler are retained at 7 and 8.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Tomorrow marks the end of a long block of games for us and one we want to finish on a high. If we get the win we head into the next block well in the running for a playoff spot – while achieving our aim of reaching the Challenge Cup knockouts – so it’s not a bad spot to be in.
We’re fully aware however that we need a win tomorrow to put ourselves in that position. The Lions are a formidable outfit and have improved even more since their first season last year, so we know a difficult challenge awaits us.”
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS EMIRATES LIONS
Saturday 28th January, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (214)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (12)
13. Tom Farrell (90)
12. Cathal Forde (7)
11. John Porch (72)
10. Jack Carty (190) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (161)
1. Peter Dooley (12)
2. Shane Delahunt (124)
3. Jack Aungier (43)
4. Darragh Murray (5)
5. Niall Murray (47)
6. Josh Murphy (11)
7. Conor Oliver (54)
8. Jarrad Butler (107)
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (15)
17. Jordan Duggan (34)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (76)
19. Leva Fifita (22)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (12)
21. Kieran Marmion (222)
22. Tom Daly (71)
23. Oran McNulty (12)
Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby
New Role for Ian Costello
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Academy and Pathway Manager Ian Costello will assume the newly created role of Head of Rugby Operations at the end of this season.
Costello will take on further responsibility in an all-encompassing Head of Rugby Operations role that will oversee the long-term strategic development of the elite player pathway, succession planning, and provide recruitment support for developing, retaining, and recruiting players in conjunction with the Head Coach.
Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “We are delighted that Ian will step into this newly created role.
“This has been a work in progress in the background for some time as we look to align our resource support with the IRFU and other provinces.
“When Ian returned to the province as Academy Manager he was identified as the ideal candidate for this role when incorporating his previous coaching experience, managerial skill-set, and strategic abilities for aligning and developing our player pathway.”
Head Coach Graham Rowntree added, “I’m delighted to have someone of Cossie’s calibre (Ian Costello) taking on this role.
“We work very closely as it is through his academy role, and from my own personal point of view it has been a really positive working relationship. Ian and his academy team play a key role in everything we are trying to achieve each week.
“It’s great to have a dedicated resource to driving long-term succession planning and coordinate recruitment operations, and I believe it will be of huge benefit to not only me and our coaching team, but to Munster Rugby.”
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Smith, Goosen combine as Jacobs returns ahead of Scarlets outing
The Vodacom Bulls have announced their matchday squad for round 13 of the 2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship against Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales. The herd will see Chris Smith and Johan Goosen start, with Stravino Jacobs and Jan-Hendrick Wessels returning to the matchday 23.
Ruan Nortje (lock) returns to lead the side which sees Gerhard Steenekamp, Johann Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith combine as the front-row trio, with Ruan Vermaak joining his skipper in the second row. The back row will have Marco van Staden, Cyle Brink and Elrigh Louw adding power to the forwards pack. In the backline, Springbok duo Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie have been given rest which sees Stravino Jacobs return to left-wing whilst Johan Goosen slots in at fullback with Zak burger at scrumhalf. Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe combine as the centre pairing with David Kriel slotting in at right wing.
The Pretoria outfit will have Jan-Hendrick Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Cornal Hendricks and Wandisile Simelane ready to come on from the bench.
This will be the second time the two sides meet and the Welsh side are looking to bounce back from back-to-back league defeats whilst the visiting Vodacom Bulls will be looking to make it two wins from two in the competition.
Chris Rossouw – Vodacom Bulls Backline coach – said the combination of Smith and Goosen allows the side to exploit the double-kicking options. Rossouw also highlighted the importance of confidence going into the fixture against a Scarlets side with balance and confidence.
“Looking over the last month, I think we are high in the confidence bar last week. Against the Dragons, at the back of the Stormers and the Sharks, the guys bounced back and they were great on the evening in how they managed the game with great energy and confidence. We obviously took that to Exeter and last week we slipped but I thought it was a great learning curve for many of us who were in France for the first time,”
“We all know Scarlets are on high at the moment, but saying that, there is nice energy at our camp and it’s almost like a change of season for us as well,”
“Confidence will be important but obviously execution and being clinical on the night will be more important.”
Rossouw went on to say: “Scarlets are known as a team that attacks a lot. What they have done over the last two months is to find a balance between their attacking and kicking game, and how we manage that will be crucial for us and make sure we do not get pinned in our own half,”
“They have a great pack of forwards and an experienced backline, that remains one of their strengths so it is important for us to manage the kicking game as a whole,”
Asked about physicality and managing that against Scarlets, the backline coach responded: “We all know it starts there, we will need to be physical and look to dominate the collisions to have any momentum. For us it will be one of the focus points. We know they have some good runners and we also know their big boys have the ability to offload in tackles, so we need to make sure we identify those and look to limit those opportunities through our tackle techniques,”
“We will need to bring the physicality that we know the South African boys can bring” he concluded.
The fixture at Parc y Scarlets stadium will kick-off at 21h35pm (South African time) and will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport Rugby.
VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johann Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Cyle Brink, 8. Elrigh Louw, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Chris Smith, 11.Stravino Jacobs, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. David Kriel, 15. Johan Goosen
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Jan-Hendrick Wessels, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Francois Klopper, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Cornal Hendricks, 23. Wandisile Simelane
MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Nollis Marais – Breakdown, Russell Winter – Forwards, Chris Rossouw – Backs, Werner Kruger – Scrum Coach, Pine Pienaar – Defense Coach, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Kyle Mayer – Physiotherapist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager
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