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James Crombie/INPHO Connacht take on the Southern Kings this weekend.
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Connacht hold emergency meeting about coronavirus concerns ahead of South Africa trip
The Irish province fly out today for this weekend’s clash with the Southern Kings.

CONNACHT HELD AN emergency meeting yesterday (TUES) as they prepare to travel to South Africa with the coronavirus disease causing havoc globally.

Connacht fly out today via London and Johannesburg for Sunday’s clash against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and they are taking every precaution.

“It is obviously very, very serious but we are getting good medical advice,” said Connacht coach Andy Friend.

“We are getting good advice as to what we need to be doing to be as cautious as we can. We will follow all of that advice.

We actually talked about wearing masks. Is that something that we are going to need to do? But at this point in time we haven’t had that advice.

“The game is slightly affected by it, in that we had an Italian referee who was going to be refereeing us. He won’t be travelling now so we are going to get a local referee.

“But with the Zebre and Benetton games being postponed this weekend it is going to start to become pretty full calendar.”

Connacht’s trio of internationals; Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan and Ultan Dillane will remain with the Irish squad and not travel to South Africa.

“Andy Farrell has been great. The issue for us, more than for them, is that our game is on Sunday in South Africa so they won’t be back until Tuesday,” said Friend.

“Any chance of playing for Ireland against Italy, they are going to need to train Monday and Tuesday which they wouldn’t be available for.

“We know what we have got here. We have got some great young fellas coming through, through our academy programme.

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Meanwhile, Friend is hopeful that experienced prop Finlay Bealham will make it back before the end of the season after the 28-year old suffered a serious ankle injury in their loss to Edinburgh at the week.

“When we hit play-offs, which is still the plan, we will hopefully get him back,” added Friend.

“He is a key man. He is a real character and a great footballer.

“You miss that impact that he brings at set-piece as well, he has got some real smarts there in the way he physically grows himself into the game.”

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