Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Connacht boss Andy Friend.
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Connacht close in on new signing to help cover Buckley's long-term injury
Meanwhile, Kieran Marmion is the only fit scrum-half in the senior squad.

CONNACHT ARE CLOSE to finalising a deal for a new loosehead prop ahead of the start of their United Rugby Championship season this weekend.

First-choice loosehead Denis Buckley suffered an ACL injury at the end of last season and will be sidelined through until December.

With the experienced Paddy McAllister having retired during the summer, Andy Friend’s squad had looked short at loosehead but he is hopeful of getting a deal across the line very soon.

“Hopefully in the next couple of days we should be able to announce something,” said Friend this afternoon.

“It has been a long process, we have been working tirelessly. When I saw ‘we,’ it has been [team manager] Tim Allnutt, [forwards coach] Dewald Senekal, myself, and [CEO] Willie Ruane working tirelessly over the last three-and-a-half months trying to find somebody but it has been very, very hard to find the right person.

“Then when we’ve found the right person, or who we have perceived to be the right person, it’s getting them to come because we pretty much have a one-year offer for them.

“To try and uproot someone of quality to try and bring them over here has been tricky but we believe we’re pretty close to making an announcement on that soon.”

Connacht will be without new Tongan second row Leva Fifita for Friday night’s visit to Cardiff in the URC due to a finger injury but he is expected back in team training next week.

gavin-thornbury-dejected-after-the-game James Crombie / INPHO Gavin Thornbury won't return until later this season. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Bundee Aki is rehabbing a neck injury, new tighthead prop Sam Ilo has a foot issue, back row Sean Masterson is out with an Achilles injury, Peter Robb is still nursing a back problem, while wing Alex Wootton is out with a calf injury. They are all expected to return to Connacht training in the next two to four weeks.

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As with Buckley, second row Gavin Thornbury is still rehabbing a long-term injury [shoulder] and won’t be seen back in action until later this season.

Meanwhile, Friend has to deal with injury issues at scrum-half, with Caolin Blade another few weeks away from recovering from an Achilles problem, while Colm Reilly has suffered an ankle issue and will be out of action for several weeks.

That leaves Kieran Marmion as the only fit scrum-half in Friend’s senior squad.

“We had Caolin come into the pre-season with an injury so he has yet to recover from that,” said Friend. “Colm Reilly was going great guns but picked up an injury last Friday so he’s definitely out for the next few weeks at least.

“We’ve got Kieran there and we’ve got a crop of healthy young halfbacks in the academy in Hubert Gilvarry, Will Reilly, and Matt Devine, so we’ve got some good young players coming through but we’re certainly a bit skinny in that area at the moment. We’re dealing with that as we go.”

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