CONNACHT v WASPS kicks off rugby season in Athlone on Saturday | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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CONNACHT v WASPS kicks off rugby season in Athlone on Saturday

published:Aug  15   2018

On-field rugby action for the season commences with a hugely attractive match between Connacht and Wasps at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon. This friendly clash between the PRO12 champions of 2016 and the English Premiership giants kicks off at 3 p.m and should be a cracker. With a host of internationals in both squads, a bumper crowd that is likely to include Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt is expected at the compact but easily accessed home of Buccaneers.

 

The highly rated visitors, who finished third in the Premiership last season, could field a squad of full internationals from a wide range of countries. Best known are lock Joe Launchbury, who captains the squad, and fellow British & Irish Lion Elliott Daly, who can play in a number of backline positions. Both players have played at Dubarry Park previously for England U-20’s. Further full England stars are front-rowers Kieran Brookes and Paul Doran-Jones and back-row duo Nathan Hughes and James Haskell but prop Brad Shields is unlikely to play due to injury. Willie LeRoux is unavailable as he is currently in the South Africa squad playing in the southern hemisphere championship but another Springbok Nizaam Carr is likely to feature in the Wasps pack where Georgian prop Zurabi Zhvania could make his debut.

 

Fijian winger Gabrielle Lovobalau will surely start in the English club’s backline that could also feature Ireland centre Brendan Macken and highly-rated Dan Robson, who is considered a strong bet to play at scrumhalf for England in the autumn. All Blacks Sevens star Ambrose Curtis will be expected to play on the wing while another recent signing from New Zealand Lima Sopoago should attract major attention from the spectators. The 18 times capped outhalf has signed from Highlanders and is a class act as is winger Christian Wade, who will be striving to reach the century of tries on Saturday. Currently he stands on a pretty impressive 98.

 

Meanwhile playmaker Jimmy Gopperth will be well familiar and still popular with Leinster supporters; indeed many fans of the current Champions Cup holders could make the relatively short journey to Athlone to check out Wasps who have been drawn in the same pool as Leinster bid to defend that particular title. Wasps Director of Rugby is Dai Young and his defence coach is Irishman Ian Costello. When Wasps last won the then Heineken Cup, they were coached by Warren Gatland who has also been head coach at Connacht.

 

That role this season is filled by Australian Andy Friend and Saturday’s match will be his first in charge of the western province. Friend has a wide range of coaching experience from NSW Waratahs and the Brumbies to coaching Harlequins in England. At international level, he has coached the Australian Sevens squad having guided the Wallabies to the 2005 U-21 World Cup final. He believes in players expressing themselves and playing an attractive blend of rugby so Connacht’s style is likely to be enterprising on the day.

 

Connacht have quite a number of Ireland capped players in their ranks including Tiernan O’Halloran and David Heffernan, both of whom have featured regularly with Buccaneers in the past. Other players to have worn the black and gold of Buccs (incidentally the same colours as Wasps) include Athlonian Jack Carty, Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley and Eoin McKeon. Meanwhile Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Finlay Bealham, Matt Healy and the one and only Bundee Aki are others to have worn the green of Ireland at senior level as has new arrival to The Sportsground Robin Copeland, formerly of Munster.

 

Connacht have some interesting recruits in their ranks including Waikato winger Sevu Reece, who was the youngest player on the Provincial Barbarians squad that played the British & Irish Lions last summer, and promising lock Joe Maksymiw. The latter, who has signed from Leicester Tigers is (despite his surname) Irish qualified! Backrower Colby Fainga’a has joined from Melbourne Reds with hooker Jonny Murphy switching from Ulster. Eoghan Masterson, Tom McCartney, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler and Gavin Thornbury will be among those seeking starting berths in the home province’s pack while Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader and Craig Ronaldson are similarly vying to nail down starting slots in the backline.

 

Ticket information

 

An entertaining and yet competitive contest is in prospect in this all too rare visit by Connacht to Dubarry Park. A big crowd that is anticipated and intending spectators are urged to purchase their tickets in advance, especially the Stand tickets, at www.connachtrugby.ie/tickets. Prices are as follows:-  Stand €15; Ground €10; Junior €5; Family €20. Family tickets admit 2 adults and 2 juniors to the ground and look really decent value so early purchase is recommended. However, cash will also be taken at the turnstiles on match day.

 

Buccaneers hosting pre-match event

 

Buccaneers are hosting a pre-match function in The Bounty at Dubarry Park at which you can enjoy 3-course meal with complimentary wine and free Stand ticket to the game. Groups and individuals can be catered for. Contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711 or email rugby@dubarrypark.com to book.

 

Buccs season kicks off on Saturday week

 

Buccaneers face a teasing and testing start to the defence of their Connacht Senior League title when they travel to Heffernan Park on Saturday week to square up to Ballina. The Mayo club, newly-promoted to the All-Ireland League, had a tremendously successful season last year and will be confident and capable in their abilities. The Pirates will need to hit the ground against the north-westerners. Meanwhile Buccaneers Seconds commence their Connacht league campaign against Sligo at Dubarry Park on September 16th.

 

Condolences

 

Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Michael Hynes.