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Chiefs assistant Kieran Keane confirmed as next Connacht head coach

Keane will bring “ambitious and exciting brand of rugby” to the Sportsground, says CEO Willie Ruane.

Kieran Keane (file pic).
Kieran Keane (file pic).
Image: Photosport/Chris Symes/INPHO

CHIEFS ASSISTANT KIERAN Keane will take over as Connacht head coach ahead of next season.

Keane has agreed a three-year contract to replace Pat Lam, who leaves for Bristol at the end of the current campaign.

“The Chiefs Rugby Club warmly congratulates Kieran Keane on his appointment as Head Coach of Connacht Rugby in Ireland,” the Super Rugby franchise said.

“The current Gallagher Chiefs assistant coach will depart New Zealand at the conclusion of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby season to take up his new post.

Kieran has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand rugby over many years and is highly respected by the many players he’s coached and staff who have had the privilege to work alongside him.”

Speaking following the news, the 63-year-old — who mainly played in the

centre for Canterbury between 1977 and 1985 — added:

“Everyone has to weigh up their future in this game and coaches are no exception. When one door closes another door opens. I have aspirations to return to head coaching and Connacht have afforded me the opportunity to realise this aspiration.

Connacht is a good fit for me as they have ambition and I like the passion of the community and the warmth of the people. My time in New Zealand rugby is done after 36 consecutive years of coaching at all levels which I am proud of. It has been stimulating and rewarding and I have made some wonderful friends and colleagues throughout this time, I am so much richer for having made their acquaintance.

“During my recent trip to the West of Ireland, I had the chance to meet many people within Connacht Rugby and I was immediately taken by the genuine passion they have for the people they represent and the ambition they have to achieve so much more.”

Debuting in 1979, Keane made six appearances for the All Blacks though none were classed as official internationals. He has also worked as a schoolteacher, as well as coaching at provincial level with Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, and overseeing New Zealand U16 and U17 age grade sides.

His greatest success arguably came as head coach of Tasman Makos, where he guided the team to an ITM Cup Championship victory and promotion into the Premiership in 2013, taking them to the final of the latter competition a year later and gaining plaudits for his attacking style of rugby in the process.

Reacting to the news, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said: “Kieran’s rugby CV speaks for itself and immediately highlighted to us that he was the perfect fit for Connacht Rugby in the context of the profile of coach that we were looking for.

Kieran is a highly experienced Head Coach with a winning track record and a proven ability in identifying talent and maximising the full potential of that talent. His ambitious and exciting brand of rugby is also consistent with the way Connacht Rugby and in particular our players want to continue to play the game into the future.

“Kieran’s time at Tasman also highlights the connection that his teams have with the community they represent, and that is something he clearly sees in Connacht as well.

Kieran was immediately able to identify with our vision of ‘Grassroots to Green Shirts’, further highlighting to us that he was the right man for the job.

“Everyone at Connacht Rugby is extremely excited about the future and Kieran’s appointment is key to helping us achieve the level of sustained and consistent success that we are all working towards. Before he starts, there is a lot of rugby to be played and I know Pat and the team are fully focused on delivering a really strong finish to the current season.”

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Paul Fennessy

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