Key Connacht players sign up

Connacht have strengthened their back row options with the signing of Munster's Robin Copeland for the next two seasons.

And with key players Eoghan Masterson and Matt Healy having penned similar extensions to their contracts at the Sportsground this week, Kieran Keane's squad for next season is taking shape.

Copeland, who has made more than 100 Celtic league appearances, adds both experience and versatility to the back row, particularly important with the loss of John Muldoon at the end of the season. Noted as an athletic and physical player, Copeland, at 6'5", has also played in the second row.

Wexford-born Copeland has taken a circuitous route to Connacht since joining the Leinster Academy from Kilkenny College. After spells at Plymouth Albion and Rotherham Titans, he joined Cardiff Blues five years ago where he made 53 PRO12 appearances. He returned to Ireland three seasons ago to join Munster, during which time he spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to shoulder reconstruction.

Fellow back-row player Eoghan Masterson has endured similar time sidelined with injury, showing commendable resilience and determination to return to action following career-threatening knee surgeries.

A captain of his school XV in Portlaoise and Leinster u18s, the 24-year-old has already captained Connacht on a number of occasions in the absence of Muldoon, and is earmarked as a key leader in Connacht's squad under Kieran Keane.

The third signing this week is Matt Healy, the club's highest try scorer. Having joined Connacht from All Ireland League club Landsowne and, having developed under Pat Lam, Healy has now made 100 apearances for Connacht and is regarded as another vital regular in Keane's three-quarter line.

The latest signings join extensions to Ireland's Kieran Marmion, Conor Carey, Tom Farrell, Tiernan O'Halloran, while Pita Ahki is leaving to take up a contract in France.

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