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Connacht confirm signings of Aussie 7s international and Kiwi number eight

Andy Friend has added Ben O’Donnell and Kiwi number eight Abraham Papali’i to his squad.

CONNACHT HAVE CONFIRMED the signings of Australia 7s international Ben O’Donnell and Kiwi number eight Abraham Papali’i.

Connacht boss Andy Friend is an ex-Australia 7s head coach and after signing John Porch from the Aussie programme last year, he has used his contacts at home again to lure O’Donnell across to Ireland.

rugby-mar-01-usa-sevens Ben O'Donnell joins from the Australia 7s set-up. Source: Allan Hamilton

Friend gave Sydney native O’Donnell his Australia 7s debut back in 2017 and the former Waratahs U20 player has gone on to become a key figure in the set-up, earning a nomination for World Sevens Player of the Year in 2018.

O’Donnell will likely compete for a place in Connacht’s back three.

Meanwhile, Friend hopes to have found the big ball-carrying number eight Connacht needed in 6ft 4ins, 115kg Papali’i.

The 27-year-old joins after a stint with Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup last year.

Papali’i is a former rugby league player, having signed with the Sydney Roosters back in 2014 and played in the NRL before a spell with French club Lézignan.

The powerful back row returned to rugby union last year and has done enough to convince Connacht that he could be the answer to their relative lack of ball-carrying ballast.

“I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby,” said Friend of the two new signings.

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“I got to know Ben very well on the Australian 7s scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.

south-sydney-rabbitohs-v-sydney-roosters-anz-stadium Papali'i is a big number eight. Source: DEAN LEWINS

“Abraham is a powerful number 8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.”

Connacht had already confirmed the additions of centre Sammy Arnold, flanker Conor Oliver, second row Oisin Dowling, and tighthead prop Jack Aungier this summer, while they have promoted six players from their academy.

“Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago and we are delighted to eventually be able to share this exciting news with all of our supporters today,” said Friend.

“These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield.

“We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success in what is going to be a really exciting season.”

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Murray Kinsella

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