Andy Friend

  • Connacht head coach Andy Friend has credited Quinn Roux's vocal leadership style as a pivotal factor in their landmark victory over Leinster in the RDS at the weekend. 

    Leo Cullen's side, seeking a fourth title in a row in 2020-21, were unbeaten before the weekend, lying second in Conference A to Ulster only by virtue of having played less games.  

    However, Connacht stunned the defending champions, running in four tries in a 35-24 win.

    Ahead of the final leg of their inter-pro series against Munster on Saturday evening, Andy Friend acknowledged that the RDS display was among the best performances of this three and a half year reign with the province.

  • Andy Friend has signed a new deal with Connacht, keeping him at the province until 2023.

    The Australian took over in the summer of 2018 and has guided the Western outfit to two Champions Cup qualifications.

    Connacht currently lie second in Conference B of the Pro 14.

  • Connacht have confirmed the signings of Australia 7s international Ben O’Donnell and Kiwi number eight Abraham Papali’i.

    The pair will link up with the squad before the start of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.
     
    Ben O’Donnell joins from the Australian Sevens programme, having played 95 matches for his country since he was handed his debut in 2017 under Andy Friend.

    New Zealander Abraham Papali’i arrives from Bay of Plenty where he was a key member of the squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year.

  • Connacht coach Andy Friend has made two changes for tomorrow's crucial Guinness Pro14 clash with Cardiff at the Sportsground.

    Ireland international Bundee Aki returns to replace Peter Robb in the centre while Paul Boyle comes in for Eoin McKeon at openside flanker.

    Victory for the western province would secure their place in the Heineken Champions Cup next season and Boyle says they're getting used to high pressure matches.

  • Connacht head coach Andy Friend says that the breakdown will be a key area of battle when his side entertain The Cardiff Blues this Saturday at 7:35 PM in the Guinness PRO14. 

    In the reverse fixture — a 29-7 victory for the Welsh team in Newport last October — Friend believes that the Blues got the upper hand at the breakdown and this prevented the Westerners from turning their territory and possession into more tries. 

    But the Australian is confident that Connacht have learned from the defeat and they can apply those lessons on Saturday evening. 

  • Head coach Andy Friend insists that Connacht can finish their season on a positive note, despite last weekend’s narrow defeat to Munster meaning the Westerners cannot win domestic silverware this term. 

    After the 20-17 reversal at Thomond Park, Connacht now sit 12 points behind their Southern rivals in Conference B in the PRO14, which — with two games remaining — is an unassailable lead. 

    However, with the Westerners drawn away to Leicester Tigers in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup and the remaining PRO14 fixtures providing the opportunity to nail down second place, Friend believes that the Sportsground team can still have a successful season, starting with Edinburgh at home on Saturday night.

    Meanwhile, prop Denis Buckley says that Edinburgh will provide a stern test for the Connacht pack and they will have to be at their physical best to defeat the Scotsmen. 

    The Roscommon native also highlighted the set-piece as an area where the Scots — who are coached by former England international hooker Richard Cockerill — are particularly strong and the Westerners, he says, will have to come out on top of that battle in order to win.

    Reacting to Connacht’s Challenge Cup draw away to Leicester Tigers, Buckley acknowledged the size of the challenge in facing the Tigers, one of European Rugby’s most storied clubs. 

    However, the loose-head believes that the Westerners can win the competition, especially with their strong away form this season. Should the Sportsground men progress they will face either Newcastle Falcons or Ospreys at home in the quarter-final.

  • Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made a number of personnel and positional changes for tomorrow's Heineken Champions Cup tie with Gloucester.

    There's a 50th appearance for the western province for Jarrad Butler, with Eoin McKeon returning at blindside.

    Irish international Jack Carty moves to full-back, with Ultan Dillane and Joe Maksymiw in the second row as Quinn Roux is rested.

    Dave Heffernan comes back in at hooker, while there's a first inclusion among the replacements for Academy lock Niall Murray.

    The game gets underway tomorrow at the Sportsground at 12.45pm, with Connacht losing to the same opposition 26-17 last weekend.

  • Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made a total of ten changes to the side that won away to Perpignan in the European Challenge Cup last weekend, as Connacht take on Leinster in the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 7:45pm).

     Included in the starting side are internationals Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane as Bundee Aki is named among the replacements.

     Bealham comes back into a front row that sees Denis Buckley returning at loosehead and Tom McCartney retained at hooker. In the second row Dillane will line up alongside Gavin Thornbury with James Cannon named among the replacements.

     Captain Jarrad Butler comes into the side alongside Colby Fainga'a and Paul Boyle at number 8.

     Jack Carty and Caolin Blade renew their half-back partnership, while the back three sees Darragh Leader come in for Matt Healy who picked up a knock in training during the week, with Cian Kelleher named on the opposite wing with Tiernan O'Halloran at full back. The midfield pairing of Tom Farrell and Kyle Godwin completes the side.

     

     (15-9) Tiernan O'Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Colby Fainga'a, Paul Boyle.

    Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Bundee Aki.

  • Head Coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the Connacht starting team for the visit of Benetton to the Sportsground tomorrow evening Saturday at 7:35pm.
     
    Darragh Leader, Peter Robb and Paul Boyle all come into the side as Connacht hope to bounce back from a defeat away to Scarlets on the opening day of the season.
     
    Leader’s inclusion on the wing sees him come into a back three with Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back, while Robb will form a midfield partnership with Kyle Godwin.
     
    Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade will continue their half-back partnership with Kieran Marmion named among the replacements.
     
    Paul Boyle at number 8 is the only change among the forwards with Captain Jarrad Butler named at openside and Eoghan Masterson at blindside. Masterson’s brother Sean is named among the replacements, with the 21 year old Academy player set for his senior debut having impressed for the Connacht Eagles in their five wins so far in the Celtic Cup.
     
    The front five remains unchanged with Paddy McAllister retained after his debut against Scarlets in a front row that includes hooker Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham at tighthead. The side is completed with locks Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux.

  • Connacht head coach Andy Friend has changed just two of his winning team for their trip to the Dragons in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow evening.

    Sammy Arnold and Eoghan Masterson come into the starting 15.

    The game at Rodney Parade gets underway at 7.35pm tomorrow.

  • New Connacht coach Andy Friend has selected back-row Jarrad Butler as his captain for the coming season.

    Butler made 19 appearances for the Westerners in his debut season at the Sportsground.

    The 27-year-old will qualify to play for Ireland in 2020.