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Copeland To Make Connacht Bow Against Lam’s Bristol

Copeland To Make Connacht Bow Against Lam’s Bristol

Connacht head coach Andy Friend has named his team to play Bristol Bears in their final pre-season match at Ashton Gate on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).

There are five changes to the side that beat Wasps 43-10 in Athlone last Saturday, with Robin Copeland making his first appearance for the province at number 8. The other change in the back row sees James Connolly come at blindside flanker with the in-form Paul Boyle at openside.
Ireland international Dave Heffernan captains Connacht from an unchanged front row alongside Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, while Ultan Dillane, who replaces new signing Joe Maksymiw, pairs up with James Cannon in the engine room. Newly-appointed skipper Jarrad Butler sits this game out with a chest injury.
There is a new half-back pairing with James Mitchell getting the nod alongside Jack Carty, and the only other change sees Tiernan O’Halloran make his second pre-season start at full-back with Cian Kelleher moving to the the right wing. Matt Healy, Kyle Godwin, who had an impressive debut against Wasps, and Tom Farrell make up the rest of the back-line.

Meanwhile, Connacht hookers Tom McCartney (ankle) and Jonny Murphy (chest) are progressing well with their respective injuries and will integrate into team training next week, along with lock Gavin Thornbury (shoulder). Peter Claffey is back in full training following a calf injury.

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Butler, Eoin McKeon (shoulder) and Sean O’Brien (calf) are all being managed this week by the province’s medical and performance team for minor knocks. Fellow back rower Eoghan Masterson has undergone surgery for the thumb injury he sustained against Brive and will be out of action until October.

In the backs, new signing David Horwitz is undergoing rehabilitation for a hamstring injury and will look to return to training shortly, while young centre Peter Robb is managing a neck injury and is partaking in light training this week under the supervision of the medical team.
Friday’s match against Bristol, who now have Connacht legend John Muldoon on board as defence coach, is the westerners’ final pre-season outing before their GUINNESS PRO14 opener at home to Glasgow Warriors on Saturday week (kick-off 3pm). The Glasgow game is the first of four at the Sportsground during the month of September, and tickets for the ‘Month Of Champions’ are now on sale at connachtrugby.ie/tickets.

CONNACHT (v Bristol Bears): Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, James Mitchell; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (capt), Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, James Connolly, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Joe Maksymiw, Cillian Gallagher, Conor McKeon, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Quinn Roux.