McCarthy and Loughney set to rejoin Connacht squad as fixtures itinerary revealedJuly 20, 2012 - 7:00am
MIKE McCarthy and Ronan Loughney will rejoin the rest of the Connacht Rugby squad in the coming days as pre-season training is in full swing.
The pair toured New Zealand with Ireland during the summer and subsequently were given additional ‘time-out’ to recharge before returning to full training next week.
The remainder of the Connacht squad have been in pre-season now for the past few weeks, including most of the province’s new signings, former Cardiff Blues and Scotland out-half Dan Parks, former Bristol hooker, Jason Harris-Wright, former Ulster openside flanker Willie Faloon, former Leinster tight-head Nathan White, and young winger Matt Healy, a Leinster Academy graduate of the Lansdowne club.
Eric Elwood’s newest signing, South African centre Danie Poolman of the Cape Town based Stormers club, is due in the West of Ireland in the coming weeks ahead of Connacht’s two pre-season friendly fixtures against top English opposition.
Connacht play Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday, August 11 at 2pm followed by a clash with Harlequins at the Stoop a week later, August 18, at 2.45pm; two fixtures in which Elwood will seek to blend in the new summer signings and development players into the squad.
Exeter Chiefs, who defeated Connacht in last season’s pre-season friendly at Dubarry Park, make their debut in the Heineken Cup this season, where they have been pitted against Leinster, Clermont Auvergne and the Llanelli Scarlets.
The following week Connacht face Harlequins in what will be the first of at least three encounters with Conor O’Shea’s side after the two clubs were once again drawn in the same Heineken Cup pool.
Last season Connacht rattled Harlequins at the Stoop, Twickenham, in their first Heineken Cup clash before late penalties from Nick Evans denied the visitors a losing bonus point.
The return leg in January was more fruitful and will live long in the memory of Connacht fans as the home side battled heroically in defence to record their first ever win the Europe’s premier club competition, against Harlequins, who subsequently went on to claim the Premiership title for the first time ever.
Following the Harlequins encounter, Connacht will have a two week break before the first game of the RaboDirect PRO12 season. Parks’ old club, Cardiff Blues, are first up for Connacht at home in the Sportsground on the weekend of August 31 and September 1 and 2.
Connacht’s first interprovincial of the new season is at home to
Heineken Cup champions, Leinster, on the last weekend of September they also welcome Munster to College Road for the Christmas inter-pro on December 21/22/23. A full list of the fixtures for the league is available on the Connacht website.
Meanwhile, the Connacht ‘A’ team, now known as the Connacht Eagles, under the guidance of Nigel Carolan, will taste British and Irish Cup action for the first time.
The westerners have been drawn in pool four of the competition, which was expanded to include 32 teams. The Eagles first clash is against Newport RCE of Wales on the weekend of October 12-14 at Rodney Parade.
Connacht have confirmed that season tickets having been selling well, and are available from www.ticketmaster.ie or from the Connacht Rugby offices on (091) 561568. The season ticket guarantees access to all Connacht’s home Heineken Cup matches, RaboDirect PRO12 matches and the Eagles British and Irish Cup matches.