As Connacht commence their second season in the Heineken European Rugby Cup, a new and exciting rugby development at U21 level in the province this year is the amalgamation of NUI Galway U21s with Corinthians RFC U21s. The combined team will play in the U21 All-Ireland League – South West Conference – which includes the cream of Munster Rugby clubs.
A working group of officials, coaches, and players from both clubs have been working closely together over the last two seasons to develop this new combined squad. The aim is to enhance the standards, competitiveness, and participation in U21 Rugby in both clubs, and thereby help to promote the game in Galway and in Connacht.
The team will field wearing a newly designed jersey that combine the traditional NUI Galway maroon and white with Corinthians' black, blue, and white hoops as well as featuring both club's crests. Promising players from the combined U21s team will have access to senior AIL rugby through the Corinthians senior squad.
A challenging and enjoyable pre-season build up has been planned for the new panel, which will be coached by an experienced and talented coaching team that includes Paul Donnellan and former international underage rugby coach, Bartley Fannin. The squad will also benefit from Corinthians senior coaches including former club captain and stalwart Pat Cunningham and Head Coach, Dr Phil Pretorious. As well as national coach to Tonga at the World Cup, Dr Pretorious coached Stellenbosch University for several seasons as well as ‘Super 14’ side the Blue Bulls.
As the final warm-up to the competitive season, the squad will play back-to-back ‘home and away’ fixtures against Dublin’s Railway Union U21s - home in Dangan on Saturday 22nd September and away in Dublin on Saturday 29th September under Railway Union's new floodlights.
Commenting on the development, Honorary Treasurer of NUI Galway RFC Gearóid Ó Broin expressed confidence in its ability to deliver on the twin objectives of increasing rugby participation and playing standards in both clubs.