18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Connacht look to inspirational captain and lock Andrew Farley as they bid to get their Celtic League campaign off to a winning start against Cardiff this afternoon (The Sportsground, kick-off 2.30pm).
Australian Farley, 25, knows his side can ill-afford to start this season as they ended the last - losing their final three League games to Leinster, the Ospreys and the Dragons, and ultimately missing out on Heineken Cup qualification.
Indeed, they will have to set a precident today if they are to see off the Cardiff Blues, who have beaten on all four previous occasions. Never doubt Connacht, especially when they have won their opening League match in each of the past four seasons.
Farley was chosen to remain as captain of the westerners for 2005/06 earlier in the week, after a successful first term. Former Ireland international Matt Mostyn was also confirmed as vice-captain, and both will start today's tie.
Elsewhere in Michael Bradley's side, young centre Keith Matthews makes his first start for the province, while number 8 Colm Rigney returns from Leeds Tykes for his first competitive outing in Galway for two seasons.
Of the replacements, Ronan Loughney, Daniel Riordan and South African hooker Chris Venter could all make their competitive debuts.
CONNACHT: David Slemen; Conor McPhillips, Darren Yapp, Keith Matthews, Matt Mostyn; Paul Warwick, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (Capt), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Chris Venter, Dan McFaland, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Brendan O'Connor, Conor O'Loughlin, Daniel Riordan.
BLUES: Nick Macleod, Chris Czekaj, Rhys Williams (Capt), Tristan Davies, Craig Morgan; Nicky Robinson, Mike Phillips; John Yapp, Gareth Williams, Martin Jones, Deiniol Jones, Robert Sidoli, Ma'ama Molitika, Andy Powell, Robin Sowden-Taylor.
Replacements: Ryan Powel, Lee Thomas, Matthew Nuthall, Ben Evans, Rhys Thomas, Craig Quinnell, Mark Lewis.
Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)