On-field rugby action for the season commences with a hugely attractive match between Connacht and Wasps at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon.
This friendly clash between the PRO12 champions of 2016 and the English Premiership giants kicks off at 3pm and should be a cracker. With a host of internationals in both squads, a bumper crowd that is likely to include Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt is expected at the compact but easily accessed home of Buccaneers.
The highly rated visitors, who finished third in the Premiership last season, could field a squad of full internationals from a wide range of countries. Best known are lock Joe Launchbury, who captains the squad, and fellow British & Irish Lion Elliott Daly, who can play in a number of backline positions. Both players have played at Dubarry Park previously for England U20s. Further full England stars are front-rowers Kieran Brookes and Paul Doran-Jones and back-row duo Nathan Hughes and James Haskell but prop Brad Shields is unlikely to play due to injury. Willie LeRoux is unavailable as he is currently in the South Africa squad playing in the southern hemisphere championship but another Springbok Nizaam Carr is likely to feature in the Wasps pack where Georgian prop Zurabi Zhvania could make his debut.
Connacht have quite a number of Ireland capped players in their ranks including Tiernan O’Halloran and David Heffernan, both of whom have featured regularly with Buccaneers in the past. Other players to have worn the black and gold of Buccs (incidentally the same colours as Wasps ) include Athlonian Jack Carty, Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley and Eoin McKeon. Meanwhile Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Finlay Bealham, Matt Healy and the one and only Bundee Aki are others to have worn the green of Ireland at senior level as has new arrival to The Sportsground Robin Copeland, formerly of Munster.
Connacht have some interesting recruits in their ranks including Waikato winger Sevu Reece, who was the youngest player on the Provincial Barbarians squad that played the British & Irish Lions last summer, and promising lock Joe Maksymiw. The latter, who has signed from Leicester Tigers is (despite his surname ) Irish qualified! Backrower Colby Fainga’a has joined from Melbourne Reds with hooker Jonny Murphy switching from Ulster. Eoghan Masterson, Tom McCartney, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler and Gavin Thornbury will be among those seeking starting berths in the home province’s pack while Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader and Craig Ronaldson are similarly vying to nail down starting slots in the backline.
An entertaining and yet competitive contest is in prospect in this all too rare visit by Connacht to Dubarry Park. A big crowd that is anticipated and intending spectators are urged to purchase their tickets in advance, especially the Stand tickets, at www.connachtrugby.ie/tickets Prices are as follows:- Stand €15; Ground €10; Junior €5; Family €20. Family tickets admit 2 adults and 2 juniors to the ground and look really decent value so early purchase is recommended. However, cash will also be taken at the turnstiles on match day.
Buccaneers hosting pre-match event
Buccaneers are hosting a pre-match function in The Bounty at Dubarry Park at which you can enjoy 3-course meal with complimentary wine and free Stand ticket to the game. Groups and individuals can be catered for. Contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711 or email [email protected] to book.
Buccs season kicks off on Saturday week
Buccaneers face a teasing and testing start to the defence of their Connacht Senior League title when they travel to Heffernan Park on Saturday week to square up to Ballina. The Mayo club, newly-promoted to the All-Ireland League, had a tremendously successful season last year and will be confident and capable in their abilities. The Pirates will need to hit the ground against the north-westerners. Meanwhile Buccaneers Seconds commence their Connacht league campaign against Sligo at Dubarry Park on September 16th.
Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Michael Hynes.