Early on Monday morning a 36-man Connacht squad set off for a five-day training camp in France that includes the first of the province's pre-season games.
This Friday night will see Connacht take on Top 14 heavyweights Clermont Auvergne in Issoire as part of the 2014 Challenge Auvergne de Rugby.
The starting line-up will be announced on Thursday from the following traveling squad:
Forwards (20) - Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, Sean Henry, David Heffernan, Shane Delahunt, Nathan White, JP Cooney, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Quinn Roux, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, Michael Swift, Eoghan Masterson, Daniel Qualter, Jake Heenan, Willie Faloon, John Muldoon, George Naoupu, Eoin McKeon.
Backs (16) - Tiernan O'Halloran, Darragh Leader, Shane Layden, Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Danie Poolman, Shane O'Leary, David McSharry, Miah Nikora, Craig Ronaldson, Ian Porter, Kieran Marmion, Caolin Blade, Conor Finn, Jack Carty.
Players in italics have been reintroduced to training following surgeries but will be unavailable to play in Friday's clash with Clermont. Ireland international Kieran Marmion is resting as part of the player welfare programme following the summer tour to Argentina in June.
Sub-Academy forward Shane Delahunt has been included as cover for recovering hookers Jason Harris-Wright and Sean Henry as well as the incoming Tom McCartney.
The 20-year-old from Birr, County Offaly was capped for Ireland Under-20s against Scotland in January of this year. Delahunt is joined by Academy players Caolin Blade and Eoghan Masterson who also provide cover for the westerners' squad.
Robbie Henshaw, Ronan Loughney, Harris-Wright and Mata Fifita will all continue with their rehab programmes in Galway this week under the watchful eye of senior fitness coach Jim Molony.
Incoming players Mils Muliaina, Bundee Aki, McCartney and John Cooney will complete the 41-man squad in the coming weeks.
Speaking about the week ahead and the game against Clermont Auvergne, head coach Pat Lam said: "This is a very important phase in our pre-season preparations. After five weeks of training together in Galway, the squad will be able to get out to France with no interruptions.
"That's the beauty of these trips. We can get away as a large squad and take the opportunity to test out our new systems and structures on the pitch. The week is also useful for building on relationships, especially with new guys coming in this season.
"As a player and coach, these trips can be hugely beneficial as long as the proper structures have been put in place. The management team have spent a lot of time preparing for this week and ensuring we get the most out of it.
"On Friday, we're playing Clermont in what will be their last hit-out before their opening Top 14 game against Grenoble the following week. In that regard, we expect a tough encounter but this fixture is less about the result, and more about how we perform.
"We want to give everyone some game-time and try out different combinations ahead of the season kick-off and our game against Wasps in two weeks' time.
"I'm very pleased with the preparation that has been done to date and looking forward to a good week from everyone in France."
Connacht and the IRFU have announced that John Muldoon has signed a new contract for the 2017/18 season. The latest deal will extend Muldoon's professional career at the province to an impressive 15 seasons. This current season marks his sixth as captain of the westerners.
Ulster have today announced the capture of South African international Arno Botha, who will move to Belfast following the conclusion of the 2017 Super Rugby campaign. He will join the province on a two-year deal.
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Speaking during Connacht's training trip to Ballinrobe RFC, captain John Muldoon said: "It's great to see the jerseys and the people coming out to support us today. Long may it continue because we're not a Galway team, we're a Connacht team and that's what we want to push and that's why we come out on these days out."
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