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Connacht announce signings of Ben O’Donnell and Abraham Papali’i

Connacht have announced the signings of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Kiwi number 8 Ab...

Connacht have announced the signings of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Kiwi number 8 Abraham Papali’i.

O'Donnell joins from the Australian Sevens programme, having played 95 matches for his country since he was handed his debut by Andy Friend in 2017.

The 24-year old scored 47 tries in that time and featured in the World Rugby Seven Series over the past three seasons.

O’Donnell was voted Australian Sevens Player of the year in 2018 and also went on to become the first Australian player to be nominated for the World Sevens Player of the Year.

Papali'i arrives from Bay of Plenty where he was a key member of the squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year.

The Auckland-born duel code player started his Union career with North Harbour before being recruited into the New Zealand Warriors (Rugby League) pathway.

Papali’i signed a two-year contract with the Sydney Roosters in 2015 and then joined Lézignan Sangliers in the premier French Rugby League competition before returning to New Zealand to switch back to Union with Bay of Plenty.

Head Coach Andy Friend told Connacht Rugby: "I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby.

"I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.

"Abraham is a powerful number 8 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."

Friend also expressed his excitement about the announcement and what it will do for the squad going forward.

"Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago and we are delighted to eventually be able to share this exciting news with all of our supporters today.

"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.

"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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Abraham Papali'i Andy Friend Ben O'Donnell Connacht Rugby Guinness Pro14