Jump to main content


Dillane And Ahki Come In As Connacht’s Two Changes

Dillane And Ahki Come In As Connacht’s Two Changes

Ireland lock Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the GUINNESS PRO14 on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm local time/5.35pm Irish time).

The inclusion of centre Pita Ahki is the only other change to the side that beat Benetton Rugby in Treviso last Saturday. Ahki will form a centre partnership with Eoin Griffin who scored the match-winning 73rd-minute try against the Italians.

The back-three remains unchanged with wingers Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran all being retained. O’Halloran, Denis Buckley, Jarrad Butler and Niyi Adeolokun all featured last weekend after returning from respective injuries, and all four are fully fit to face the Cheetahs this time out.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

With an extended squad of 25 players, Connacht travelled from Italy last Sunday on to Bloemfontein in South Africa where they have been training this week and acclimatising to soaring temperatures of up to 30 degrees. 

Having previously coached in Super Rugby, Connacht head coach Kieran Keane has faced the Cheetahs on a number of occasions and is well aware of how difficult it is to beat the South African side on home soil.

“I think everyone is familiar with their style of play. They play some really exciting and attacking rugby. They played like that when they came to the Sportsground and they were hard to beat. They are even harder to beat when they are playing at home and only one team has managed it since they joined the PRO14,” said Keane.

“It’s a massive challenge but one we are really relishing. We will be focusing on our game-plan and what we can control and hopefully delivering a winning performance on Saturday.”

In what will be his last occasion playing rugby in the southern Hemisphere, the westerners’ long-serving captain John Muldoon is determined to come away from Bloemfontein with an important victory.

“The game will be kicking off at 7.35pm in the evening South African time so hopefully heat won’t be as big of a factor as during the day. We have trained in the middle of the day all week so by the time the game comes on Saturday evening we should be well adjusted to it,” said Muldoon.

“But the conditions are only one part of the game and it can be an excuse if you want it to be. There is no doubt that the Cheetahs are a very good attacking side. If you give them time and space they will hurt you.

“We have to be smart in how we play the game and we don’t want to give them huge opportunities to run the ball. If we fall into that trap, we will be in big trouble regardless of other factors.”

Meanwhile, Connacht confirmed this afternoon that Pita Ahki’s short-term contract with the province will come to an end at the end of this season. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Pita for his contribution to Connacht Rugby during his time here and wish him and his family all the best for the future,” concluded the province’s statement.
CONNACHT (v Toyota Cheetahs): Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.