By Rob Murphy
RUGBY is back this weekend as Connacht debuts in a whole new expanded competition. The United Rugby Championship replaced the old PRO14, with South Africa’s top four teams joining teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy in a new 16-team tournament.
Over the next seven months, Andy Friend’s men will play 18 games as they seek to secure one of eight play-off spots.
Connacht kick off their campaign in Wales on Friday where they face Cardiff at Arms Park (7.35am) for an important opening day game. With a number of difficult interprovincial struggles on the horizon, a good start is absolutely necessary.
Connacht Rugby announced on Wednesday that it is moving its October 23 match with Ulster to the Aviva Stadium to mark the lifting of nationwide restrictions on crowds at live events. The independent match will be a huge opportunity for the organization to introduce the provincial team to a large audience and they hope that Connacht fans will come in large numbers to the east to watch their team play in the national stadium.
This will be the second time in just over a year that Connacht has played at the venue after facing the same opponents last August at a time when crowds were not allowed. It has to be traced back to 1986 for the previous Dublin 4 venue appearance. Giving up the home advantage for a league game seems like a risk to be taken, as the new event is expected to generate a lot of interest among rugby fans alike. waited over 18 months to watch their team play live.
While there is room for a packed house in Wales this Friday, Connacht’s home opener against the Bulls the following Friday and their clash with the Dragons in Galway and Munster in Limerick later in The month will all come under current capacity restrictions of fifty percent in the Republic of Ireland, which is why Ulster’s match in Dublin will be a turning point for the campaign.
To find out more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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