Eight new players, including the province’s biggest addition Mils Muliaina, signals Pat Lam’s first full squad selection since taking over the reins from Eric Elwood.
Lam undoubtedly produced the coup of this season’s signings, luring the former All Black Muliaina and the Super 15 Chiefs centre Bundee Aki to the province. The two players are key recruits for the province, providing real top class experience in a young backline in which Darragh Leader and Robbie Henshaw are expected to develop into seasoned and top class pros. The addition of former Blues hooker Tom McCartney is another from Lam’s former stable who, along with Nathan White, will provide the necessary seasoning to a relatively young front row.
With the departure of senior stars Dan Parks, Gavin Duffy, who has moved into the province’s commercial and marketing department, and Frank Murphy, Lam has lost experience. However, it has allowed him to budget for the Kiwi contingent.
Craig Clarke’s unfortunate departure due to enforced retirement has been offset in part by the arrival of former South African Stormer Quinn Roux on loan from Leinster until December. Mick Kearney, on tour with Dan McFarland’s emerging Ireland, is expected to become a first choice in the second row, with former Academy Danny Qualter in a developing role.
Connacht is well served in the backrow with youth and experience, and the return from injury of both Willie Faloon and Jake Heenan is an exciting prospect for the Connacht fans.
New recruits Ian Porter (Ulster ) and John Cooney (Leinster ) will join the well- established Kieran Marmion in the crucial scrumhalf position, while Lam believes the departure of Dan Parks will allow Miah Nikora, Craig Ronaldson, and Jack Carty to get game time necessary for their development.
The latest signing is that of Trinity winger Niyi Adeolokun who has featured in Nigel Carolan’s Eagles. Adeolokun has signed a one-year contract with Connacht Rugby, joining Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Tiernan O'Halloran, and Danie Poolman.
On the management team former Wellington coach Andre Bell has joined as the new backs and kicking coach.
Incoming: Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Conor Finn, Finlay Bealham (all Academy graduates ), Ian Porter (Ulster ), Shane O’Leary (FC Grenoble ) Mils Muliaina (Chiefs ), Bundee Aki (Chiefs ), Tom McCartney (Blues ), Niyi Adeolokun (DUFC ).
*John Cooney, Quinn Roux (both on loan – Leinster Rugby )
Outgoing: Brett Wilkinson, Gavin Duffy, Frank Murphy, Paul O’Donohoe, Kyle Tonetti, Craig Clarke, Eoin Griffin (London Irish ), Dan Parks, Aaron Conneely, Brian Murphy, Dave Nolan, James Rael,
*Conor Gilsenan (loan ) (London Irish )
Connacht Rugby squad 2014/15: Prop: Ronan Loughney, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Nathan White, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham; Hooker: Jason Harris-Wright, Dave Heffernan, Sean Henry, Tom McCartney; Second row: Mick Kearney, Aly Muldowney, Michael Swift, Danny Qualter, Quinn Roux; Backrow: Andrew Browne, Mata Fifita, Jake Heenan, Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon, John Muldoon, George Naoupu; Scrumhalf: Kieran Marmion, Ian Porter, John Cooney; Outhalf: Miah Nikora, Craig Ronaldson, Jack Carty; Centre: Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry, Conor Finn, Bundee Aki, Shane O'Leary; Wing: Fionn Carr, Matt Healy, Tiernan O'Halloran, Danie Poolman, Niyi Adeolokun; Fullback: Mils Muliaina, Darragh Leader, Shane Layden.