Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam has revealed he has attempted to sign Irish-born USA international AJ MacGinty on a number of occasions.
Lam and MacGinty worked together while the pair were at Connacht, and had a successful relationship as the two helped the western province to an unlikely Pro12 triumph in 2016.
The Bristol boss was speaking at a press conference ahead of his side’s encounter with Sale Sharks and MacGinty, and revealed that he attempted to sign the American international after he took over at the English club in 2017.
💬 “It’s always been a great battle against Sale and it’s going to be the same again on Friday night.” 💥
🗣️ Pat Lam previews #SALvBRI
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) May 25, 2021
‘At different times I have tried to get him back.’
“Sale are always physical, they are pretty direct but they are well run with Faf [de Klerk] one of the best in the world and AJ, who I have a lot of time for,” Lam said.
“Funny enough, I had him in Connacht and we had to let him go and I rang a few Premiership clubs about finding AJ a spot. I spoke to about four or five of them and Dimes [Steve Diamond] was the first one to take him up.
“At different times I have tried to get him back but he has settled nicely and Sale are going a great job. They have got a really good spine and certainly Faf and AJ run the show.“
AJ MacGinty’s journey from Ireland to the US and back again.
MacGinty has played exceptionally well for Sale since joining the north-west English club from Connacht in 2016, and has worked brilliantly with World Cup-winning Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk.
The 31-year-old was born and raised in Dublin, but moved to New York in 2011, before settling in the US state of Georgia the following year. MacGinty played with Life University while in the states and qualified for the USA through residency.
The Irish-born fly-half first played for the USA in the summer of 2015 and went on to represent his adopted country in that year’s Rugby World Cup.
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Lam, then the head coach of Connacht, was impressed by the Dubliner’s performances at the World Cup and brought him to the western province on a one-year deal.
MacGinty had to leave Connacht once they announced the signing of South African international Marnitz Boshoff, as the province were unable to keep two non-Irish qualified players in the same position.
Connacht ultimately released Boshoff from his contract early on compassionate grounds after the death of his father, but MacGinty’s services were lost to both Connacht and Lam as he settled in at Sale.