Marmion set to boost Connacht this weekend but Aki’s return on hold

KIERAN MARMION IS set to make his return for Connacht this weekend but it could be another week before his Irish team-mate Bundee Aki is back in action for the province.

Connacht host Michael Bradley’s Zebre at the Sportsground on Saturday hoping for their first competitive win under new coach Andy Friend.

But new signing Robin Copeland will have to wait another week at least for his competitive debut for Connacht, having made his bow in a pre-season friendly in Bristol.

Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan said that Copeland is close to a return but they are waiting on the results of a scan on his back row colleague Epin McKeon who went off injured in the early stages of their opening clash against Glasgow Warriors at the weekend.

“Robin is working his way back,” Carolan said. “He just had a slight twinge on his quad, he’s not fully integrated into the squad yet but he is very close to return.

“Eoin hurt his AC joint the week before. He managed his way back into selection but then he got another knock on it in a heavy tackle against Glasgow so he is in with the specialist for a MRI today so we will see the state of play on it in due course.”

Carolan said that Eoghan Masterson (finger) and James Connolly (shoulder) are going to be out for a few weeks, while new signing David Horwitz is nursing a hamstring issue. 

Irish internationals Aki and Marmion are poised to return, however. 

Scrum-half Marmion is available for selection for Saturday’s tie against Zebre but it could be the following week in Edinburgh before Aki returns.

Marmion during Connacht’s squad session on Tuesday. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“They are back fully training now,” added Carolan. “With Bundee the agreement was that he wasn’t going to be available for this weekend but he is training fully, he did a full session with us, so we will see.

“Kieran is training fully with us, it’s his first full week and he is available for selection.”

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Carolan is hoping that Connacht can bounce back from the disappointing 27-26 loss to Glasgow, a defeat exacerbated when Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg took the ball behind his own line in the dying moments and touched down after a Craig Ronaldson’s drop goal from distance dropped short.

Referee Ian Davies awarded a drop out instead of a five-metre scrum, with little protestation from the Connacht players.

“I think everyone’s heads were down after the ball dropped just short of the crossbar so it was something that wasn’t picked up,” added Carolan.

“The referee was right in front of him as well and with TMOs and things it’s a pity it went unnoticed but it shouldn’t have come down to that. That game should have been dead and buried with 20 minutes to go and they are the lessons we are learning.

“They are the moments that go against you. You will have those moments in every game.”

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