Connacht Rugby season preview: Good start essential if Friend’s men are to reach their goal

Upheaval and season format against them but Connacht will aim to defy the odds again

Abraham Papali’i: the 28-year-old Aucklander’s ball-carrying could prove a potent weapon for Connacht. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Abraham Papali’i: the 28-year-old Aucklander’s ball-carrying could prove a potent weapon for Connacht. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Prospects

Realistically, this looks like being a tough season for Connacht.

In addition to a radical overhaul of the coaching ticket, Andy Friend has been forced into a bigger makeover of the playing squad than he would have envisaged, with seven young former Irish under-20 players either forced to retire prematurely – Seán O’Brien (26) the lock cum flanker, Stephen Fitzgerald (25) and Cillian Gallagher (24) – or released, or poached, as in the case of Seán O’Brien (23), the centre who was acquired by Exeter Chiefs.

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