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Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Marmion set for Connacht return ahead of Ireland's trip to Italy

Marmion has shaken off the ankle injury which has hampered him through the early portion of the season.
Feb 13th 2019, 6:56 AM 7,059 29

KIERAN MARMION IS set to give Joe Schmidt options at scrum-half for the remainder of the Six Nations as he returns to action this weekend for Connacht for the first time since featuring in the win over the All Blacks.

Marmion started that game against New Zealand in the absence of Conor Murray to win his 24th cap but then underwent surgery a few days later on a troublesome ankle injury.

Connacht coach Andy Friend confirmed yesterday that Marmion, who was 27 on Monday, had made a full recovery and will play next Saturday against the Cheetahs in the PRO14.

“Yeah, he’ll play. He’s back and available,” said Friend, who added he expects Marmion to come right back into contention for Ireland if all goes well.

“His last time running out there was against the All Blacks in an historic win, so I think that he will certainly be on the radar.”

Bundee Aki and Quinn Roux have not been released from Irish camp but Ultan Dillane and the uncapped trio of Jack Carty, Caolin Blade and Tom Farrell have returned to the Sportsground.

Tom Farrell Tom Farrell has been pushing for matchday spots in Carton House. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

However, Friend said this does no signal that their Six Nations involvement is at an end for now.

“I don’t think that at all. The way the Six Nations is at the moment it’s quite attritional, there are a lot of physical games. Anyone that’s in that mix, stay turned because you could well be used.”

Friend points out that there is hardly a better example of that than lock Quinn Roux who was left out of the initial 38-man squad only for injuries to pave the way for a recall which saw him feature off the bench against England and start in the win over Scotland.

“That’s the nature of sport and rugby,” added Friend. “The disappointment of non- selection; we have seen it here. We have some quality players that don’t get selected each week. ‘Don’t drop your head because anything can happen on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday’, that’s what we keep saying to them. Something can happen and all of a suddenly you’re in.”

Connacht are in contention in the PRO14 in Friend’s first season at the Sportsground as it heads towards the business end of the campaign and they also have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final away to Sale Sharks to look forward to next month, but he is plotting for the future and securing loosehead Denis Buckley on a two-year contract extension is another boost.

Denis Buckley Buckley training in Galway with Jack Carty. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Buckley, who has chalked up 151 appearances for his native province, had attracted interest apparently from Ulster and Bristol where former Connacht coaches Dan McFarland and Pat Lam are in charge, and Friend said it was a boost to retain the 28-year from Roscommon.

“We’re really pleased that’s he’s decided to stay here. A bloke who’s a Connacht man, 150 caps plus for Connacht. He is just a rock in that scrum.

“You know in when you go into the scrum situation with Denis at loosehead you’ve got stability. That’s the key thing from a loosehead prop, you just want to nail the set piece and he does that.

“But around the field he is one of he most energetic props we’ve seen in the competition. He gives us that energy and that tempo that we look for and bounce in our game, so it’s great to have him staying,” added Friend.

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