A number of Connacht Rugby's senior players are on track to return to action in the coming weeks following different surgical procedures over the summer months.
Gavin Malouf, Head Physiotherapist, provided an update on a number of players which came as good news for Pat Lam and his coaching team five weeks out from the start of the new season.
As part of pre-season preparations, a squad of approximately 40 players will travel to France next Monday August 4th where, in the town of Issoire, they will take part in a rigorous week-long training session. The away trip will conclude with a game against Top 14 heavyweights Clermont Auvergne on Friday, August 8th as part of the 2014 Challenge Auvergne de Rugby.
There are a small group of players who will not travel next week due to their ongoing rehab schedules.
Ireland international Robbie Henshaw, who was forced to withdraw from the Summer Tour to Argentina in June due to an exacerbated hand ligament injury, is progressing well following surgical repair. The 21-year-old back is due to resume full team training towards the end of August.
Having dislocated his shoulder during Connacht's final home game against Cardiff Blues last season, Jason Harris-Wright had the required reconstruction surgery in May. The 25-year-old hooker, who started 17 games last season, is currently excluded from contact training and will not travel to France. His expected 'return to play' date is late September.
Ronan Loughney had groin surgery three weeks ago and has resumed running this week. The Galway-born prop is likely to be back in the frame for selection ahead of the pre-season friendly away to Wasps on August 23rd.
Back row forward Mata Fifita will also remain in Galway next week having undergone shoulder arthroscopy in May. Rehab is going well for the 25-year-old Tongan who, while currently restricted in terms of contact training, is expected to be available for selection mid-September.
While the following players continue to work on their rehab they are all on schedule to resume team training and will travel to France next week.
Tighthead prop Nathan White is recovering from minor back surgery he had in early June. The 33-year-old will travel to France for training and is expected to be match-fit ahead of the pre-season game away to Wasps on August 23rd.
Hooker Sean Henry, who underwent neck surgery in March, has been integrated into team training in recent weeks. The 26-year-old from Sligo will travel to France to push for some game time ahead of his second season with his home province.
It has been a long road to recovery for New Zealand born flanker Jake Heenan who had shoulder reconstruction surgery back in February. The 22-year-old is now in the final stages of rehab before he resumes full training. He is expected to be available for selection ahead of the Wasps game.
Two months after his ankle reconstruction procedure, Academy graduate Jack Carty has made good progress to resume team training. The young outhalf will travel to France in a bid to play a part in the game with Clermont on Friday August 8th.
Connacht Rugby kick off the official season with a home game against Newport Gwent Dragons on the weekend of September 5/6/7. Fixture dates and kick off times for the PRO12 are to be confirmed in the coming days.
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Connacht Pre-Season Fixtures:
Friday August 8th: Clermont Auverne v Connacht Rugby, Issoire, 8pm local time
Saturday August 23rd: Wasps v Connacht Rugby, High Wycombe, 2:30pm
While Jack McGrath admits the majority of rugby fans will probably be on the side of Cinderella men Connacht for Guinness PRO12 final glory, the Leinster prop is determined to spoil their party in Edinburgh.
The boot of AJ MacGinty booked Connacht a meeting with Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 Final next weekend after the men from Galway edged past reigning champions Glasgow Warriors 16-11 at the Sportsground.
You might think that Connacht's defeat of Glasgow Warriors on the final day of the Guinness PRO12 regular season gives the Irish side the psychological advantage heading into Saturday's semi-final rematch.
If Ulster are to beat Leinster and reach the Guinness PRO12 final, they will have to overcome a number of statistical obstacles, yet Ulster skipper Rory Best claims the pressure will all be on their Dublin-based opponents.