Connacht coach Andy Friend has welcomed the contract extension handed to Abraham Papali’i.
The New Zealand born No. 8 has made a huge impact on the Connacht pack since his arrival this season and has been handed a new one-year deal as a result.
The powerful Papali’i had a challenging start to his Connacht career, picking up two reds cards against Munster and Zebre in his first four games. But on the plus side, the new signing crossed for four tries in his 11 appearances.
Since his return from a five-game suspension, Papali’i has shown improved form and fitness and after his match-changing appearance in the victory against Ulster last time out, the 27-year-old has been rewarded with a new deal.
“I have seen enormous growth in the last couple of months for him. Prior to that as we know, he had a ban of three weeks and then a ban of five weeks,” said Friend.
“It’s not easy in your first year anyway, and then if you are getting eight weeks taken off along with a couple of missed game around Covid, it just makes life very hard.
“I have been really impressed with the way he has progressed in these last two months, and so the contract has been well earned. There is still more growth left in him, he knows that and we know that. I’m excited by what the future holds for him.”
Papali’i is expected to feature this Saturday when Connacht host Leinster at the Sportsground in the teams’ second Rainbow Cup game, although Friend’s side will have to plan without the services of Paul Boyle due to a knee injury sustained against Ulster, that will keep him out for three weeks.
Prop Jordan Duggan will also be out until the end of May after undergoing hand surgery, while Alex Wootton remains a doubt for the weekend despite returning to training. Captain Jarrad Butler is available after he completed the third game of his suspension following a red card in the Challenge Cup, while Sammy Arnold is available following his chest injury.