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Major boost for Connacht with Buckley set to return from injury this weekend

The 31-year-old loosehead has been sidelined with a long-term ACL injury.

Buckley is set for his return.
Buckley is set for his return.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

EXPERIENCED CONNACHT PROP Denis Buckley is poised to make a timely return to action this weekend after recovering from a long-term knee injury picked up just a minute into his 200th appearance for his native province last June.

The 31-year old suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Benetton last June just as he became only the third player after Michael Swift and John Muldoon to make 200 appearances for Connacht.

But now the Roscommon native is set to resume his career after battling back and he’s available for Saturday’s URC clash with Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground.

Senior coach Pete Wilkins said his return is timely with five props unavailable for last weekend’s Champions Cup trip to Paris.

“It’s a testament to the work that Denis has done, but also the medical and support staff behind the scenes,” said Wikins. “You never like to see someone with long-term injuries, and it’s always a great challenge for them – not just from the physical perspective, but how they manage that time and state of mind when they work back to being available for selection.

“I know for him, until he’s selected and plays a game and gets those minutes under his belt, it won’t quite close the loop on it, but he’s certainly getting very close to that and we’re really excited for him.

“It’s a massive boost. Certainly, in terms of personnel you want on the field, there’s merits to having the young guys come in in the last 20 minutes with the enthusiasm and energy they bring, but also you’re grateful if you have some experienced heads out there. It’s not just their knowledge of the game but also their knowledge of being in those tight finishes, and how they can manage their own part of the game, their own part of the team, but also the composure and the messaging that they can spread to some other guys.

“There’s enormous positives around that, Denis has worked enormously hard to get back to full fitness, and has done so in a really good timeframe. it’s a massive boost to have him available.”

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Connacht will also be boosted by the return of Samoan loosehead Tietie Tuimauga, who has also had to cover tighthead for a time, although Finlay Bealham is away on Six Nations, and Wilkins said getting extra cover for the front row is a boost for this clash.

“We were stretched at the weekend, with respect to the guys that were out there. We managed to get 23 out there and got the game played which is important for all sorts of reasons. We will get some reinforcements this week, we’ll be in a stronger position than the last couple of weeks in terms of availability.”

Saturday’s clash at the Sportsground against Glasgow will also be the first time that former player, academy manager and backs coach Nigel Carolan returns to Galway as part of the Warriors management and Wilkins said it adds another dimension to an important fixture.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing Nigel. It’s probably more of an occasion for him in terms of coming to his home patch rather than the other way around, but we’ll look forward to seeing him,” he added.

About the author:

John Fallon

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