Irish province Connacht have beefed up their squad ahead of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season with the recruitment of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Bay of Plenty No8 Abraham Papali’i. Handed a 2017 debut by current Connacht coach Andy Friend, O’Donnell scored 47 tries in his 95 matches at sevens level, becoming the first Australian ever nominated for the world sevens player of the year award.

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Kiwi Papali’i, meanwhile, was a Mitre 10 Cup winner last season after he returned to union following a spell in rugby league where he featured for Sydney Roosters and Lezignan Sangliers in France after initially linking up with the New Zealand Warriors following a union stint at North Harbour. 

Speaking to the Connacht club website ahead of the planned late August resumption of the 2019/20 PRO14 season, Friend said: “I got to know Ben very well on the Australian sevens scene. It didn’t surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I’m thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.

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“Abraham is a powerful No8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.

“Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago. These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. 

We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield.

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“We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success in what is going to be a really exciting season.”

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