Connacht’s campaign to replace outgoing coach Pat Lam is turning into a massive challenge, as a number of candidates have distanced themselves from the position.
Lam will depart the current Pro12 holders to join Premiership side Bristol at the end of the season, and the Irish province are finding that replacing the 48-year-old is easier said than done.
In an interview with South Africa’s Netwerk24, Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has confirmed that while he was contacted by Connacht last December, he turned them down in a show of commitment to the Super Rugby side:
“It’s true that I was contacted by Connacht in December, but I told them that I am committed to the Cheetahs,”
Former Springbok Smith has coached in Europe before, with a six-year spell at Treviso from 2007 to 2013, but has returned down the chance to do so again has he looks to continue his success at Cheetahs as well as taking a place on Allister Coetzee’s South African national team setup.
Connacht, meanwhile, have been running through a list of candidates as they look to have a new head coach lined up before Lam’s departure. Nigel Carolan had been the bookies’ favourite to replace Lam up until confirmation last week that he would not be taking the job, with the former academy manager instead choosing to focus on his role as Ireland under-20s coach.
With former All Blacks Tony Brown and Jonno Gibbes already ruling themselves out of the running, the list of candidates is narrowing with every fresh rejection.
In the meantime, Lam’s side are way behind in their bid to retain their Pro12 crown. Coupled with their group stage Champions Cup exit, it seems highly likely that the impressive 2016 title win will be the peak of his spell at the province.
On this week’s edition of the Oval Office, we discuss Ireland’s selection policy for overseas players, the England captaincy and more…