Connacht have found life difficult as reigning Pro12 champions. Subsequent to their maiden champions, injuries have plagued this season. Pat Lam’s decision to leave for Bristol next season was an even worse blow, however. With Connacht sitting 7th in the Pro12 standings, facing a daunting run-in, they needed some good news.
That news came in the announcement on Monday with two appointments to Kieran Keane’s new coaching setup.
Previously an inside centre for Canterbury, Keane started his coaching career with Marlborough. His career has been on the up and up since and he became assistant coach to Super Rugby side the Chiefs last year. Connacht will be a new challenge but they style of rugby the province is playing is familiar to Keane. Their open, fast paced game is very reminiscent of Super Rugby so Keane should have no issues.
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) March 23, 2017
To help Keane assimilate to the new role and new county, the province have today confirmed his backroom team. Galway men Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy will assist the Kiwi next season.
Connacht fans will be familiar with both. Carolan was formerly a player for the province in the late 1990s. He then moved to the academy in Galway at a time that saw them produce the likes of Robbie Henshaw, Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Eoin Griffin and Tiernan O’Halloran. He came to national prominence though with his role as Ireland U20 coach. Here, he guided the country to Ireland’s first ever World Rugby U20 Championship final in June 2016.
Duffy has served as forwards coach to the Connacht team for two seasons and brings with him some continuity to the coaching set up. Speaking on his re-appointment as forwards coach, Duffy said;
“I’m delighted to be extending my time as coach with Connacht Rugby. The last two seasons have been hugely rewarding and I’m looking forward to working with Kieran and his new coaching team next season. For now, I’m fully focused on finishing this current season as strong as possible.”
Connacht head to Glasgow this weekend hoping to cut the 7 point gap between them and their Scottish counterparts. With just 5 league games remaining, a win is vital if they are to stay in the hunt for a top 6 finish and qualification for next season’s Champions Cup. A return to the Challenge Cup is on the cards if they lose.
It is expected that Pete Malone, Carolan’s assistant, will take over as Ireland U20 head coach on an interim basis. They play in the World Championships in Georgia this Summer and will begin their campaign against Italy on the 31st of May.
Eoin Neylon, Pundit Arena
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