Connacht have boosted their squad for the season ahead with the long awaited news of two additional signings.
Australian Sevens' player Ben O’Donnell and New Zealander Abraham Papalii are the recruits Connacht fans have been waiting to hear news of, now boosting the Connacht squad to 43.
Ben O’Donnell is a player well known to Connacht coach Andy Friend, who gave him his first start in the Australian Sevens programme in 2017. With 95 matches under his belt during which time he scored 47 tries, his recruitment looks like another astute signing, adding a second former Sevens player after John Porch's addition last season.
O'Donnell has credentials in the Sevens set-up and voted Australian Sevens Player of the year in 2018 and became the first Australian player nominated for the World Sevens Player of the Year.
With the loss of Niyi Adeolokun who with Matt Healy, have been Connacht's leading speed merchants, the 24-years-old O'Donnell will be a welcome addition, but may need time to get up to speed since tearing his ACL in January.
Twenty-seven-year old Abraham Papalii is a dual code players, having taken up rugby league after beginning his rugby career with North Harbour. Recruited into the New Zealand Warriors (Rugby League ) pathway, he went on to play for the Sydney Roosters of the Australian National Rugby League (NRL ) and French outfit Lézignan Sangliers.
The blindside flanker, however, returned to rugby in New Zealand and has featured for Mitre 10 side Bay of Plenty.
Papalii is known as a strong and fast back row player, while in rugby league he was utilised in several positions - second row, lock, and centre.
Andy Friend says the two players are a significant boost for Connacht.
“I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby. I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.
"Abraham is a powerful number 8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.”
"These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our Academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield. We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success."