Connacht sign Ben O’Donnell and Abraham Papali’i

By Stephen Barry

Ben O
Ben O'Donnell, nicknamed 'BOD', was named Australian Sevens Player of the Year in 2018 and became the first Australian to be nominated for World Sevens Player of the Year.

Connacht have added some southern-hemisphere experience to their squad for next season with the signings of Australian Sevens star Ben O’Donnell and Bay of Plenty number 8 Abraham Papali’i.

The westerners' head coach Andy Friend has previously coached O'Donnell as a former Australian Sevens boss, handing him his debut in 2017. 

The following year, O'Donnell, nicknamed 'BOD', was named Australian Sevens Player of the Year and became the first Australian to be nominated for World Sevens Player of the Year.

The 24-year-old back has scored 47 tries in 95 appearances, although his 2020 campaign was ended by a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which required surgery.

"I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene," said Friend. "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."

New Zealander Papali’i was a key member of the Bay of Plenty squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year.

The 27-year-old back-row has spent much of his career in rugby league, playing for the New Zealand Warriors, Sydney Roosters, and Lézignan Sangliers in France, before returning to union with Bay of Plenty.

"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," added Friend. "I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer."

They join a list of domestic Connacht recruits, including three players joining from Munster, Sammy Arnold, Conor Oliver, and loan-signing Alex Wootton, as well as ex-Leinster duo Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling.

It leaves Friend with a 43-man squad to work with 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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