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Connacht set for boost with Ireland internationals returning to set-up

The westerners’ Ireland contingent are back training with them this week.

Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are back in Connacht training.
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are back in Connacht training.
Image: INPHO

CONNACHT ARE SET to be boosted by the return to matchday action of some of their Ireland internationals for this Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 clash with the Dragons. 

With Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad not playing this weekend, Connacht are in line to benefit as some of their key men return for the trip to Newport this weekend.

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion and out-half Jack Carty have been unused by Ireland over the past fortnight, as has second row Quinn Roux, who had a shoulder issue the week of the Six Nations game against Italy.

Hooker Dave Heffernan, tighthead prop Finlay Bealham, and second row Ultan Dillane have all made two replacement appearances for Ireland, while centre Bundee Aki started the win over Italy and the defeat to France.

It remains to be seen exactly which players are involved this weekend for Connacht but they will have some of those Ireland players available for the Dragons clash.

“We do expect to have some of the Ireland boys back,” said defence coach Peter Wilkins. “They’ve all been around this week.

“Bundee hasn’t been training, he’s obviously managing his load on the back of the minutes he has had.

“But Jack has been training with us, Kieran has been training with us and he set a PB this morning on the speed testing, so he’s raring to go. 

“Ultan and Quinn are here as well so we’ve got a fair few of them who expect to be available but we’ll finalise that this evening in terms of exactly who we’re taking to Newport. 

“They’ve been around the ground and training and it’s good to have their freshness and excitement back in the fold as well.”

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The likes of Carty and Marmion will be very eager to get game time under their belts after their non-involvement in Ireland’s closing two Six Nations fixtures, while the trio of forwards who have come off the bench and Roux are also likely to want more minutes. 

jamison-gibson-park-and-ultan-dillane-dejected Ultan Dillane came off the bench in Paris on Saturday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It certainly helps in that sense, they are champing at the bit,” said Wilkins. “They’ve all got individual points to prove but also they’ve got a real hunger to contribute to the cause here at Connacht as well.

“We can certainly harness that. It’s a bit different for them in that there is still a run of Ireland games coming up as well so there’s an incentive for them to perform to help our cause, of course, but also to put their best foot forward in terms of international selection.

“Normally, you get these guys back at the end of a campaign or a camp but there are more Ireland games on the horizon for them. There is motivation everywhere you look.”

Connacht are coming off the back of a weekend without a game after their fixture against Benetton, initially scheduled for Sunday in Galway, was postponed due to Covid-19 cases in the Italian club.

“It was obviously disappointing in terms of the momentum we had coming out of the Edinburgh game and also having a home game, having our heads around the strategy of how we felt we could beat Benetton,” said Wilkins.

“It’s obviously frustrating to have that pulled from you but at the same time, there’s always a silver lining. We were looking at a six-day turnaround but on the back of the postponement, it meant we had extra training sessions. 

“We will still have that game in hand and will, all going well, get to play them at some other point.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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