CONNACHT RUGBY HAS refused to confirm or deny if Chiefs and New Zealand full-back is being lined up for an audacious move to The Sportsground.
Both the Irish Independent and Sunday Times reported that the 33-year-old All Blacks star was in the frame for a move to Galway next season. Pat Lam, having already signed up Craig Clarke and Bundee Aki from the Waikato Chiefs, was said to have broached the subject of a move with Muliaina.
Aki was signed by the western province following the Muliaina reports and, it was widely assumed, that would be the end of the Chiefs/Connacht transactions for one season. TheScore.ie has learned, however, that the switch is still on the front-burner.
Muliaina, capped 100 times for the All Blacks but retired from Test rugby in 2011, has played two seasons of Top League rugby in Japan but, last October, was signed on a one-year contract by reigning the Super Rugby champions along with former Crusader Robbie Fruean. He played two games upon his return to the Chiefs but surgery on his injured elbow has ended his season.
The Chiefs may be reluctant to commit Muliaina, who turns 34 in July, to their wage bill in 2015 so a move to Europe, for a financially rewarding contract, remains a viable option. He may also taking up a coaching role with the province, similar to Dan Parks who is now involved with the Connacht U18s. When contacted, a Connacht spokesperson told TheScore.ie: “We can’t comment on any players, incoming or outgoing, until we’re ready to announce publicly.”
Connacht, meanwhile, have tied up veteran lock Michael Swift to a one-year contract extension. The 36-year-old, who has 262 caps with the province, has signed up for what will be his 15th season. Swift’s contract, and that of flanker Mata Fifita, was confirmed this morning.
Lam commented, “Swifty continues to defy the years and prove himself as a true Connacht man. His work ethic, passion and commitment to Connacht Rugby is inspirational to the management, players, sponsors and supporters.
When myself and Dan (McFarland) sat down with him recently, it was evident how much he wants this contract. He is still so hungry to play and we know that he will continue to push hard in training and fight for a place while also leading the squad.”
The province held their annual awards dinner in Galway at the weekend and their main accolade, Players’ Player of the Year, went to scrum-half Kieran Marmion. The 21-year-old has been involved in all of Connacht’s games this season and is the leading try-scorer with seven in all competitions.