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Double contract boost for Connacht but Bundee Aki not ready to return just yet

Ronan Loughney, Eoghan Masterson and Stacey Ili have all returned to full fitness for Pat Lam’s side.

CONNACHT TODAY ANNOUNCED some encouraging contract news ahead of Sunday’s away game against Cardiff Blues in the Guinness Pro12 [KO 1.05pm].

Hooker Dave Heffernan and lock James Cannon have both put pen to paper on new two-year deals with the western province, which Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane has described as “great news for Connacht Rugby and our supporters.”

Pat Lam and Dave Heffernan Connacht head coach Pat Lam and hooker Dave Heffernan at today's press conference at the Sportsground. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Mayo native Heffernan, who has featured in every game for Connacht this season, has made 75 appearances since his debut in 2012. The 26-year-old academy graduate has also represented Ireland U20s and Emerging Ireland.

“I have really enjoyed being witness to the phenomenal growth that Dave has made as a player and a person over the past four years in the senior set-up,” said Connacht head coach Pat Lam.

“He is the consummate professional and I have no doubt that he will do everything possible when it comes to reaching the next level in his career and achieving great things.”

Cannon joined Connacht from Wasps earlier this season and has made nine appearances for Pat Lam’s side. The English-born 28-year-old qualifies to play for Ireland via his paternal grandparents, who hail from Donegal.

Lam said: “We’ve all been really impressed with the work that James has put in on and off the field since he arrived in September. It’s fantastic that he has enjoyed his first season here and sees the opportunity to grow as a player with Connacht.”

James Cannon Connacht lock James Cannon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On the injury front, Ronan Loughney, Eoghan Masterson and Stacey Ili have all recently returned to full fitness, but it looks like Bundee Aki, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin and Andrew Browne aren’t ready to play just yet.

According to this afternoon’s injury bulletin from the province, the injured quartet will be back in action “in the next few weeks”, while Conor Carey, Ivan Soroka, Marnitz Boshoff, Josh Rowland and Darragh Leader are scheduled to return in March.

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Paul Dollery

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