Connacht squad takes shape for next season

Club captain Jarrad Butler will remain in the Connacht for the next two seasons, having signed a contract extension this week.

A leader on and off the field, Butler is one of Connacht's most experienced players, having joined the province from the Brumbies in 2017.

The 30-years-old made an immediate impact on arriving in the west of Ireland, deservedly winning the Players' Player of the Year award, and taking on the captaincy after John Muldoon's retirement.

A player who is held in high respect, Butler has become an integral part of Andy Friend's team, and is in line to join the centurion club next season, having made 90 appearances for the club.

It is good news for Connacht, who have also retained players Matthew Burke and John Porch.

Ballinrobe's Matthew Burke has signed a two-year deal, while Australian John Porch has penned a one-year contract, according to Connacht Rugby.

It is good news for the home-grown Burke who is a product of Connacht pathway system, having played for Ballinrobe RFC and Galwegians RFC before joining the Connacht Academy.

The 25-years-old made his Pro debut in October 2018, and has played 34 times for the province.

Australian John Porch quickly established himself as a key player since being signed by Andy Friend in 2019. An Australian Sevens player who played under Friend, the 28-years-old,can play on the wing or fullback, and has already notched more than 50 caps, and scored 13 tries.

Friend says: “I’m delighted John and Matthew have both renewed their contracts with Connacht. They’re two players with very different backgrounds – John has been an important member of the squad since moving from Australia in 2019, and Matthew has gone from strength to strength since coming through the ranks as a Ballinrobe man.”

Connacht are expected to announce more squad additions this week, with speculation rife that some Leinster players will be heading west next season. Currently in a welcome two-week break from competitive action, Connacht continue their preparations for their biggest game of the season when they welcome Leinster to the Sportground for the first leg of the round of 16 in the European Champions Cup on Friday April 8 at 8pm.

It ensures little rest for Connacht, particularly after the hugely disappointing result against Edinburgh in their last URC outing when they conceded eight tries in the Scottish capital, losing by 56-8.

It certainly was neither the result nor the performance Friend would have expected, particularly after a bright opening. Mitigating factors are the loss of key players with Ireland, but whatever the reasons, it now makes Connacht's challenge of making the top eight all the more difficult.

Schools finals

The eagerly awaited schools cup finals take place at the Sportsground on Tuesday afternoon.

The highlight of the schools' rugby season, the cup finals include the senior event A event between Sligo Grammar and Colaiste Iognaid at 4pm. Sligo, the losing finalists to Garbally by 14-12 two seasons ago when the last cup competition was held, will be determined to claim their 11th title, while the Jes will be looking for their 15th. The Galway city school has not been in the senior decider since 2018 when they were beaten by Garbally in a high-scoring 45-26 game.

The senior A cup will be precede by the senior B cup final which sees St Paul's Oughterard in the decider for the first time. They will face St Enda's at 2pm. The cup final action kicks off at 12 noon when Presentation Headford face Sancta Maria College in the senior C cup decider.

 

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