Russia provides pre-season challenge for Connacht

Connacht Rugby returned to Russia yesterday evening ahead of a challenge fixture against the Russian national side in Moscow's newly developed VTB Arena on Saturday evening (5pm Irish time ).

Connacht coach Andy Friend has taken a 24 man squad for the fixture which is warm-up for the Russians ahead of the World Cup.

As expected the squad is a mix of experienced players and recent Academy graduates, including outhalf Conor Fitzgerald, Matthew Burke, Jonny Murphy and Conor Kenny.

Andy Friend says it is a special fixture and Connacht was delighted to accept the invitation from the Russian Rugby Union.

"It has the obvious benefit of giving players some game time in what is a longer pre-season than usual. It’s also another opportunity to build on the group cohesion in the squad.

"For many of our younger players in particular, this is a unique opportunity to play in a country and a venue that not many players get to play in. We also have a handful of players who played for Connacht in a Challenge Cup fixture in Russia back in 2015, so there is a good mix among the group.”

It is the second of three pre-season friendly fixtures, having defeated Oyonnax in France last month, and on September 21, Munster will travel to the Sportsground.

Friend says the squad is progressing well.

"This is a longer preseason than normal due to rescheduling around the World Cup and that presents its challenges, but it also means we have more time to work on our detail and allow longer periods of rest and recovery. Over the past two weeks the Connacht Eagles side has also recorded back to back wins over Dragons and Ospreys in the Celtic Cup, so that gives further confidence to those players involved.

Connacht squad v Moscow: Forwards, Denis Buckley, Matthew Burke, Jonny Murphy, Tom McCartney, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Conor Kenny, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler, Robin Copeland, Eoghan Masterson. Backs, Angus Lloyd, Stephen Kerins, Conor Fitzgerald, David Horwitz, Stephen Fitzgerald, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Daly, Tom Farrell, John Porch, Darragh Leader.

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