The Connacht senior squad returned to training on Monday as pre-season for the upcoming 2017/18 campaign began, with the countdown now on to the province’s pre-season matches against Wasps and Bristol next month.
Decked out in the new Connacht training kit, which will be available in Elverys Sports stores from Thursday, July 20, there were a number of new faces settling in with the squad over the last three days.
Assistant coaches Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan, new defence coach Peter Wilkins, and new senior strength & conditioning coach Johnny O’Connor were among the coaching group overlooking various training drills in Galway on the pitch and in the gym.
The Connacht squad has been bolstered in the off-season by the arrivals of scrum half James Mitchell, prop Peter McCabe and second row Gavin Thornbury along with Academy graduates Conor McKeon (scrum half), Cormac Brennan (utility back) and Pat O’Toole (hooker).
The five Connacht players who featured for Ireland during the successful summer tour of the USA and Japan – Kieran Marmion, Tiernan O’Halloran, Quinn Roux, Finlay Bealham and Dave Heffernan – will return to training towards the end of the month.
While Monday marked the first training session of the season, the westerners had reconvened last week to meet incoming head coach Kieran Keane. The current Chiefs assistant coach spent last week in Ireland.
Keane will join Connacht following the completion of the Super Rugby season in the coming weeks and the new-look Connacht Rugby website will have an exclusive interview with him later this week ahead of an exciting new era at the province.
Today, a number of the Connacht squad will be out among the province’s local clubs with 12 senior players visiting Connacht Rugby Summer Camps, sponsored by Galway Free Range Eggs.
Two pre-season fixtures are lined up in August and Connacht Rugby Season Ticket holders for the 2017/18 season have free access to the match against Bristol at the Sportsground on Saturday, August 26 (kick-off 3pm).
It will be new coach Keane’s first home game, with the recently-departed Pat Lam leading the opposition. Connacht v Bristol tickets will be available to purchase shortly with a high demand expected. Prior to that clash, Connacht travel to the Ricoh Arena on Wednesday, August 23 to take on 2016/17 Aviva Premiership runners-up Wasps.