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'He's a very special player and a very special bloke. He wants an Irish jersey'

23-year-old Paul Boyle captains Connacht against Bristol in the Champions Cup today.

Paul Boyle has become a key figure for Connacht.
Paul Boyle has become a key figure for Connacht.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT’S ONLY A few years since Paul Boyle learned the disappointing news that his native Leinster didn’t have a full academy spot for him.

That setback was never likely to stop a person as determined as the Gorey man.

Nigel Carolan, Connacht’s attack specialist, had coached Boyle with the Ireland U20s in 2017 and knew all about the back row’s qualities and potential, so the western province pounced to lure Boyle west.

He hasn’t looked back since joining their academy in the summer of 2017, making his senior debut in January 2018, then signing his first professional deal 10 months later. 

Now, at the age of 23, Boyle is captaining the province as he continues to put his hand up as a future Ireland international. He leads Connacht again today against Pat Lam’s Bristol at the Sportsground in the Champions Cup [KO 5.30pm, BT Sport], taking over the captaincy as Jarrad Butler is among the replacements.

Boyle was superb last weekend against Racing 92 in Paris, showing he can shine against even the very best teams in Europe.

“He’s a very special player and he’s a very special bloke,” said Connacht boss Andy Friend.

“When Jarrad went off against Racing, Paul took over the captaincy. Wayne Barnes is one of the best communicators going around as a referee but the conversations Paul was having with Wayne were really insightful – it was just two rugby intelligent men both who know their stuff and who were confident in what they were doing.

paul-boyle-scores-a-try Boyle has been in superb form for Connacht. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The bloke is only 23 but he’s got enormous confidence. He worked so, so hard over the Covid period to build up that body of his – he put on 5kgs.

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“He’s big, physical, and robust.

“And he’s hungry. He wants Connacht to win, he wants to be the best he can be and he wants to get an Irish jersey.

“So every game he plays, he plays like it’s his last one and it’s great to have a bloke like that in the side.”

Connacht:

15. John Porch 
14. Alex Wootton 
13. Sammy Arnold 
12. Bundee Aki
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley 
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Eoghan Masterson
5. Ultan Dillane
6. Sean Masterson 
7. Conor Oliver
8. Paul Boyle (captain)

Replacements:

16. Shane Delahunt 
17. Jordan Duggan 
18. Jack Aungier 
19. Cian Prendergast 
20. Jarrad Butler
21. Caolin Blade
22. Tom Daly
23. Tiernan O’Halloran

Bristol:

15. Max Malins
14. Ratu Naulago
13. Piers O’Conor
12. Siale Piutau
11. Alapati Leiua
10. Callum Sheedy
9. Harry Randall

1. Jake Woolmore
2. Bryan Byrne
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Dave Attwood
5. Ed Holmes
6. Steven Luatua (captain)
7. Ben Earl
8. Nathan Hughes

Replacements:

16. Will Capon
17. Max Lahiff
18. John Afoa
19. Joe Joyce
20. Daniel Thomas
21. Andy Uren
22. Ioan Lloyd
23. Niyi Adeolokun

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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