Saturday 16 December 2017

Western input into All Blacks' slaying

Ultan Dillane celebrates the victory at Soldier Field. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ultan Dillane celebrates the victory at Soldier Field. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ronan O'Brien

While last Saturday brought a remarkable victory for Ireland over New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, Connacht's fingerprints were all over the historic win.

Three of the province's players were named in the match-day 23, Ultan Dillane, Finlay Bealham and Kieran Marmion, and two of them played key roles in the match as it unfolded.

Marmion was unfortunate that incumbent scrum-half Conor Murray registered one of his best performances in a green shirt, and only for that he would surely have played his part on the field in the famous win.

But two other players to finish that game can thank Connacht for their development.

Robbie Henshaw played all his underage rugby in the province with Marist College in Athlone and with Buccaneers in the town, while he is also a graduate of the Connacht academy and went on to represent the province and play a key role in their Pro12 victory last season.

And replacement hooker Sean Cronin also developed his game and honed his skills on the rugby fields of Connacht during his four-year spell with the province. He made his Ireland debut while representing Connacht prior to his move to Leinster.

This week both Niyi Adeolokun and Tiernan O'Halloran were called up to the Ireland squad in preparations for tomorrow's clash with Canada and both players will be keen to show their skills in the international green shirt.

Last season five Connacht players famously finished a Six Nations game together for the first time in the win over Italy. Bealham, Dillane, Henshaw and Marmion were joined by Nathan White on the park that day.

Who knows, maybe that figure may be improved on in the months to come.

Irish Independent

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